The Louisiana state legislature, on Wednesday, joined the procession of conservative state legislatures challenging abortion rights, voting to pass a so-called heartbeat abortion bill, severely restricting women’s access to an abortion in the state. The Republican-controlled legislature voted 79-23 in favor of the bill and the state’s Democratic governor John Bel Edwards, who has long-opposed abortion rights, said he will break with his party and sign it into law. The new restrictions will outlaw abortions after a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women are even aware they’re pregnant. The current legal standard for when an abortion is no longer legally permissible, as established by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, is roughly 24 weeks.
“I know there are many who feel just as strongly as I do on abortion and disagree with me—and I respect their opinions,” Edwards said in a statement after Wednesday’s vote. “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.” Even with Edwards signature, the new restrictions will not go into effect until a federal appellate court rules on a similar Mississippi law passed in March that is being held up by a court injunction.
Louisiana joins a number of mostly southern states—Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio—to enact fetal heartbeat bills in an effort to curtail access to abortion services. Missouri, which approved an eight-week ban on abortion, is on the cusp of being the first state in the country since Roe v. Wade in 1973 not to have a single abortion clinic. And then there’s Alabama. The state passed a law just weeks ago that essentially outlaws access to abortion altogether—even in cases of rape or incest—in an effort to get the Supreme Court to take the case and reconsider Roe. Federal courts have typically reined in similarly overreaching state laws, recently in Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa and North Dakota.