A bill to prohibit abortions after 15 weeks is getting closer to a final vote in the Louisiana legislature.
On Wednesday, the state House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee approved the bill in a 9-8 vote, moving it to the full House for consideration, according to The Advocate.
More than 200 unborn babies could be saved from abortion every year if the bill becomes law. Data from the state Department of Health indicates about 200 unborn babies were aborted after 15 weeks of pregnancy in 2017 in Louisiana.
When it passed the Senate in April, state Sen. John Milkovich, a pro-life Democrat who wrote the legislation, explained his motivation.
“This recognizes the right of the state after 15 weeks to protect the lives of the unborn,” Milkovich said. “This is a great step forward.”
Louisiana is the second state to attempt to prohibit abortions after 15 weeks. Mississippi passed a similar law in March, but a judge blocked it after the last abortion facility in the state sued.
In April, the state Senate added an amendment to address concerns about legal challenges. As amended, the law would not take effect unless the Mississippi law is upheld in court, The Advocate reports.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a rare pro-life Democrat, said he probably will sign the bill, according to the AP.
“It remains to be seen whether that bill will make its way through the process. I would be inclined to sign it if it hits my desk,” Edwards said on his radio show in March.
By 15 weeks, unborn babies are nearly fully formed; their major organs, fingers, toes, eyes, ears, taste buds and even their own unique fingerprints already have developed. By this point in the pregnancy, scientists say unborn babies can respond to touch, yawn, smile and suck their thumbs.
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Louisiana and Mississippi currently prohibit abortions after 20 weeks.
At this point, it is unclear if a 15-week ban would withstand a court challenge. President Donald Trump promised to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, and pro-life advocates praised his choice of Neil Gorsuch; however, a majority of judges on the high court do not think unborn babies deserve a right to life.
Several years ago, North Dakota and Arkansas passed bills to prohibit abortions after an unborn baby has a detectable heartbeat (about six weeks), but federal courts struck down both laws.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the following about the bills: “Because there is no genuine dispute that (North Dakota’s law) generally prohibits abortions before viability — as the Supreme Court has defined that concept — and because we are bound by Supreme Court precedent holding that states may not prohibit pre-viability abortions, we must affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs.”
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the cases in 2016.