Southern Democratic Governor Breaks Rank on Abortion Issue, Will Likely Sign Pro-Life Bill

A doctor once advised John Bel Edwards it would be best if he and his wife had an abortion for their child who would live a life with spina bifida. Edwards' wife was 20 weeks pregnant with their first child at the time.

Edwards and his wife refused, and now their daughter, Samantha, works as a school counselor and is married.

As states across the country pass more stringent abortion laws, including the Republican strongholds in the south, this Democratic Louisiana governor stands firm on a pro-life agenda.

"My position hasn't changed. In eight years in the Legislature, I was a pro-life legislator," Edwards said in an Associated Press report, stating his stance remains the same after he became governor. "I'm as consistent as I can be on that point."

Abortion bills similar to Louisiana's proposal has become law in other states — Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio. The Louisiana state House just needs one more vote to pass its bill that prohibits an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The Louisiana law would ban abortion as soon as six weeks of pregnancy — which in many instances is before the woman knows she is pregnant.

Edwards has said he will sign such legislation should it come across his desk.

Although the proposed Bayou State abortion law isn't quite as restrictive or stringent as the newly-passed Alabama law that would imprison doctors for performing abortions, the Louisiana law would add to a growing number of states passing similar legislation that could challenge the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision with a U.S. Supreme Court that's weighted to the right with conservative justices.

Opponents of the new state laws say it's a war against the rights of women. One of those is Democratic consultant Rebecca Katz, who said these laws make it "hopeless" for women.

"When Republicans are taking away women's rights at every step, it's on the Democrats to show that we are the party that will protect women. When we fail to do that, we make it absolutely hopeless for women around the country," Katz said.

The Louisiana bill states that if a woman is in a serious health risk, she is an exception to the proposed law. And like Alabama, pregnancies by rape and incest would not be exempt.

Elizabeth Nash said the new state law would give women "a very small window" to have any abortion services.

"If you think back 20 years, abortion politics were less along party lines," said Nash, who is part of the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights organization that researches reproductive health issues. "There were moderate Republicans who supported abortion rights because they felt there was a right to privacy and places where government should not go."

Then there is Gov. Edwards, who's a Catholic-raised Louisianan who campaigned in 2015 that he was "pro-life." And as another governor election is happening in 2019 with mounting party-line pressure across state lines, Edwards stands pat.

"That's the way I was raised. That's what my Catholic Christian faith requires," Edwards said on his radio show. "I know that for many in the national party, on the national scene, that's not a good fit. But I will tell you, here in Louisiana, I speak and meet with Democrats who are pro-life every single day."