Louisiana’s Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday signed a bill establishing one of the most extreme abortion bans in the United States, representing the latest victory for anti-choice activists’ coordinated effort to “eradicate Roe.”
SB 181, sponsored by state Sen. John Milkovich (D-Shreveport), prohibits a physician from performing an abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation, except in the case of a medical emergency. While a patient seeking abortion care could not be criminally charged under the law, a doctor who performs an abortion could face up to two years in prison and a $1,000 fine.
While Milkovich praised the governor’s decision to sign the bill, it will only take effect if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upholds a similar Republican-backed law in Mississippi.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed a bill criminalizing abortion providers on March 19. That same day, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit challenging the law. U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves on March 20 blocked the law, citing its “dubious constitutionality.”
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“The Mississippi law is blatantly unconstitutional,” said Jessica Mason Pieklo, vice president of law and the courts for Rewire.News. “It should be an easy call for the Fifth Circuit to continue to block the measure which would also keep Louisiana’s similarly unconstitutional abortion ban from taking effect.”
Amy Irvin, executive director of the New Orleans Abortion Fund, said in a statement that the Louisiana anti-choice law “blatantly ignores” the longstanding U.S. Supreme Court precedent that guarantees the right to decide whether to end a pregnancy.
“Women are moral agents, and we call on Louisiana legislators to respect a woman’s right to follow her own conscience when making moral decisions,” Irvin said.
“As an ob/gyn in Louisiana, I believe it’s my duty to meet my patients’ needs without judgment,” Dr. Valerie Williams, a board member of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. “Not only do restrictive laws make it harder for me to do my job, but this abortion ban is also an assault on patients in my state and would have drastic effects on access to abortion care,” Williams said.
The Louisiana and Mississippi laws appear to be part of a legislative effort by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal advocacy firm classified as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Williams said these types of anti-choice laws “endanger the health of women.”
“For my patients’ sake, I urge the Legislature and Governor Edwards to turn their attention to policies that will improve the health and lives of the people of Louisiana, rather than enacting medically unsound restrictions on abortion,” Williams said.