Louisiana’s governor signed a bill Wednesday that would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a rare pro-life Democrat, signed the bill into law.
More than 200 unborn babies could be saved from abortion every year if the law stands. 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.”
Under the law, anyone other than the woman ending her pregnancy who “commits the crime of abortion” could be punished by up to a decade of hard labor in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
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.
Sen. Danny Martiny, a pro-life Republican who introduced the amendment, said he wants to save the state from a possible costly legal challenge. When courts rule against abortion regulations, state taxpayers often are forced to reimburse the pro-abortion groups for their legal fees; this happened recently in Arizona and Missouri.
“I’m on the same page with (Milkovich), but this amendment keeps us from spending money litigating this issue,” Martiny said.
However, Milkovich argued against the amendment, saying, “I think the babies are worth the money.”
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.
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.