Louisiana's Democrat Governor to Sign Bipartisan 'Heartbeat Bill'

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards / Getty Images
May 30, 2019

Lousiana Democratic governor John Bel Edwards intends to sign legislation that would prohibit abortions once a heartbeat is detected after it received bipartisan backing in the state legislature.

"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 in a statement following the law's passage in the state legislature.

Edwards, facing re-election this fall, is somewhat of a pariah in the Democrat Party as he is the only pro-life Democrat governor in the country, making him one of the most prominent pro-life Democrat elected officials in the country. He served eight years in the state legislature before successfully running for governor in 2015 on an unorthodox Democratic platform that highlighted his support of the 2nd Amendment and his pro-life views.

In total, over a dozen House Democrats voted for the bill on its final passage on Wednesday, while seven Democrat state Senators voted in favor of the legislation earlier this month. The legislation was first introduced by Democratic state senator John Milkovich.

State Rep. Katrina Jackson, an African-American Democrat legislator, who sponsored the bill in the legislature's lower chamber spoke with Vice News this week to discuss her support of the legislation.

"I tell people I'm a Christian first. I've always been very blunt about it when I ran for election," Jackson told Vice News Tonight, explaining why she sponsored the legislation.

"I believe that under the right Supreme Court it will be overturned. I don't believe it is a civil rights issue," she later said of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case which legalized abortion throughout the country.

Jackson, who spoke at the 2019 March for Life in Washington, D.C., has represented Louisiana's 16th House district since 2011 and is currently running for Louisiana's 34th Senate district.

"Louisianans on both sides of the aisle overwhelmingly reject the extreme status quo of abortion on demand through birth imposed by Roe v. Wade. Across the nation there is a growing momentum, informed by science and compassion, to recognize the humanity of the unborn child in law," Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement provided to the Washington Free Beacon. "We thank Rep. Jackson for her steadfast pro-life leadership and for all legislators – Republican and Democrat – who supported this measure."

SBA List has a history of backing the few remaining pro-life Democrats holding elected office throughout the country. The group helped support Democrat Congressman Dan Lipinski (D., Ill.), one of the only pro-life Democrats in Congress, in 2018 when he faced a primary challenge from a progressive activist who focused her campaign on Lipinski's support of pro-life legislation.

The Louisiana legislation, similar to other measures passed in states such as Missouri and Georgia, will only go into effect if a federal court upholds a similar bill passed by the Mississippi legislature that has faced legal challenges from abortion rights supporters. A federal judge on Friday placed a stay on the law while the legal challenges play out.

As Democrats embrace the expansion of abortion rights in Democrat-controlled state legislatures and on the presidential campaign, Edwards's support of the "heartbeat bill" has forced some elected Democrats to respond to Edwards's unorthodox position within the party.

On Tuesday, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, who is expected to lead the Democrat Governors Association beginning next year, demurred on whether the committee tasked with electing Democrat governors will support candidates who espouse pro-life positions.