Last week the Louisiana state House passed a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, challenging nearly half a century of legal precedent set in 1973’s Roe v. Wade. The bill has already been passed by the state Senate and now waits the Governor’s signature.
Spearheaded by Senator John Milkovich, the bill is pushed by ‘Alliance Defending Freedom’, a group seeking to ban abortions at a state-wide level. If successful, Louisiana women would be denied termination options earlier than the current 20-week mark, with the penalty of up to $100,000 fines and 10 years in prison for any doctor found to have violated the law.
The 15 week deadline falls before the medical consensus over when a fetus becomes viable outside the womb, the parameter set in Roe. Federal courts have already ruled that bans before viability, around 24 weeks, are unconstitutional. Women’s rights advocates believe this is one more bill that is intended to wind its way through the court system and potentially serve as a Constitutional challenge to Roe, thanks to a Supreme Court that right-wing politicians plan to stack with anti-abortion justices like Neil Gorsuch.
To become law, the Louisiana bill rests on the conclusion of a federal case currently pending in Mississippi, where the government is defending its 15-week abortion ban. While successfully signed into law by Governor Phil Bryant, a federal judge immediately blocked the ban from going into effect following a lawsuit filed by The Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the only abortion clinic in the state.
“This law will absolutely disproportionately impact low-income women and women of color,” said Felicia Brown Williams, Mississippi state director for Planned Parenthood of the Southeast. “Women with financial means will always have access to abortion. They’ll be able to travel to another place to receive services.”
Mississippi and Louisiana, along with 16 other states, already ban abortion after 20 weeks. A federal 20 week abortion ban recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives but failed in the U.S. Senate where it required 60 votes to pass. The overwhelming majority of abortions take place prior to the 20 week mark, and those who seek out abortion later in pregnancy often do so for very complicated and personal reasons, including severe fetal anomalies, most of which can’t be detected prior to the 20 week mark.
Media Resources: The Advocate 2/5/18; Feminist Newswire 3/23/18; Rewire News 3/17/18; The Gambit 5/8/18; Right Wing Watch 1/22/18