Louisiana's Democrat Governor Signs Heartbeat Bill Into Law

On Thursday, Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, signed S.B. 184 into law, prohibiting the abortion of an unborn baby with a detectable heartbeat. Edwards and his fellow Democrats in Louisiana bucked the national party's trend in favor of abortion.

"In 2015, I ran for governor as a pro-life candidate after serving as a pro-life legislator for eight years," Edwards wrote in a half-apologetic statement. "As governor, I have been true to my word and my beliefs on this issue." Yet he still defended his Democratic credentials, adding, "But it is also my sincere belief that being pro-life means more than just being pro-birth."

In his statement, Edwards seemed determined to prove his Democrat credentials, essentially apologizing for his pro-life stance. "My first act as governor was to expand access to health care for working Louisianans. I have worked with Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature to expand investment in education and pass sweeping criminal justice reforms. For each of the last three years, my administration has set records for the number of children being adopted out of our foster care system, and despite fierce opposition, I've fought to ensure LGBT citizens are not discriminated in the workplace, to raise the minimum wage, and to pay a woman the same as a man for doing the same job," he wrote.

"I know there are many who feel just as strongly as I do on abortion and disagree with me — and I respect their opinions. 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," the governor concluded.

Other Democrats also voted for the bill. As Ellen Carmichael noted, H.B. 184 passed with an "absolutely massive margin (79-23) in a legislature that isn’t overwhelmingly GOP (just 59% of members are GOP) and Dem Governor is signing into law. Louisiana is a very religious state (Catholic & evangelical, primarily), so these lawmakers know their voters."

Indeed, state Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-La.) recently spoke at a conference with the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), arguing that Democrats should defend the lives of the unborn and condemning the disproportionate abortion of black babies as a "modern-day genocide," rooted in historic racism and eugenics.

In Louisiana, Democrats can be vocally pro-life, and the governor can sign a bill outlawing abortion without exceptions for rape and incest.

But Edwards knew that this abortion bill would draw nationwide press coverage and attacks from his fellow Democrats in other states. He wrote a somewhat apologetic statement arguably for that very reason.

Just as Republicans have been energized by the radicalism of Democrat abortion bills in New York and Virginia, Democrats have grown angry over pro-life bills that protect unborn babies when a heartbeat can be detected and in other circumstances. Liberals have protested Georgia's heartbeat law, and Alabama's abortion law that directly challenged Roe v. Wade had Democrats livid.

Yet Louisiana Democrats understand something that many national Democrats do not seem to understand. The New York abortion law — in legalizing abortion in almost any circumstance and even removing protections for wanted unborn babies — is radical in a way that the heartbeat bills are not. Yes, Georgia and Louisiana are trying to ban abortion in every case where a baby's heartbeat can be detected, but that seemingly extreme position shows the humanity of the unborn baby.

From the moment of conception, an unborn baby has unique human DNA. From very early on in pregnancy, a heartbeat can be detected. Many pro-abortion activists argue that the cardiac activity observed from the baby is not truly a heartbeat, but they resort to arguments about size in doing so. Modern genetics — not religion — has proven the individuality of each person from the moment of conception. Cells with unique DNA are not merely part of the mother's body.

Ultimately, Democrats like John Bel Edwards — apologetic as they may be — are on the more scientifically accurate side of the abortion debate. Other members of their party would be wise to join them.

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.