The Louisiana House strongly supported a bill Tuesday that would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
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.
“This recognizes the right of the state after 15 weeks to protect the lives of the unborn,” said state Sen. John Milkovich, a pro-life Democrat who wrote the bill. “This is a great step forward.”
The Louisiana House voted 70-9 to approve the bill.
While the bill was not heavily discussed on the House floor Tuesday, more deliberation had occurred in House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee over potential litigation costs. However, Milkovich argued that the costs would be worthwhile.
“I cannot think of a better expenditure of money that Louisiana could make than to protect the life of the unborn,” Milkovich said.
In addition to the time restriction, Milkovich’s bill also lays out penalties for physicians conducting abortions. These penalties include imprisonment for up to ten years with hard labor and a fine of up to $100,000.
Rep. Valarie Hodges, who presented the bill, said the ban on abortions after 15 weeks was for the benefit of women.
“This is a very difficult and gruesome procedure that women are subjected to,” Hodges said.
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.
The Louisiana Senate added an amendment to the bill 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 if it reaches his desk, 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 respond to touch. Babies at this stage also have been observed yawning, smiling and sucking their thumbs.
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.