Louisiana passes fetal heartbeat abortion ban, Democratic governor says he will sign into law

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has indicated that he will break with his party and sign the ban if it crosses his desk.
Image: Louisiana abortion bill
Hundreds of people gathered for a pro-abortion rally on May 22, 2019, in downtown New Orleans.Chris Granger / AP file

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By Doha Madani

The Louisiana House of Representatives passed an abortion ban on a 79-23 vote Wednesday that would prohibit women from terminating a pregnancy once a fetal heartbeat has been detected.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has indicated he will break with his party and sign the ban if it crosses his desk. The Senate already approved the bill with amendments that include language to require an ultrasound and clarified that abortion did not include medically necessary terminations.

The House rejected an amendment Wednesday that would have provided an exception to the bill for women and girls who had been impregnated through rape or incest.

Edwards, who was elected governor in 2015, describes himself as a "pro-life candidate." He said in a statement Wednesday after the bill passed that he respects the opinions of people who disagree with him.

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"As I prepare to sign this bill, I call on the overwhelming bipartisan majority of legislators who voted for it to join me in continuing to build a better Louisiana that cares for the least among us and provides more opportunity for everyone," Edwards said Wednesday evening.

Louisiana would become the fifth state to pass a fetal heartbeat ban, joining Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio. Louisiana is also considering a bill that would ask voters to add a constitutional amendment that would declare that the state doesn’t protect abortion rights.

The ban, which includes an exception for pregnancies deemed "medically futile," would only take effect if a similar bill in Mississippi is held up in a federal appeals court, according to the bill's text. Mississippi's law would ban abortions as early as 6 weeks, before most women are even aware they are pregnant.

A federal judge on Friday issued a preliminary injunction blocking Mississippi's fetal heartbeat anti-abortion law from going into effect, saying it infringes on women's health care rights.

A number of states have passed abortion bans this year to challenge the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which deemed access to the procedure a constitutional right.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a near-total abortion ban bill into law on May 15 that lawmakers admitted was designed specifically to overturn more than 40 years of federal abortion protections.

Alabama House Rep. Terri Collins, who sponsored the bill, told NBC News that legislators wanted to keep the bill's text as clean as possible, specifically to address the language in Roe v. Wade, and revisit the question on whether a baby in the womb is considered a person.

The Supreme Court upheld Indiana's law on Tuesday requiring abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal remains, but left lower court rulings intact that invalidated a broader measure that would prevent a woman from having an abortion based on a fetus's gender, race or genetic disorder.

Associated Press contributed.