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Louisiana’s abortion ban (SB 181) passed in the House by a vote of 78-9. The Senate had earlier voted 31 to 3 to pass it on to the House. The bill now goes to the governor.

SB 181 would ban abortions after 15 weeks (down from 20 weeks under current state law). The bill provides no exception for pregnancies that result from rape or incest nor does it allow an exception when the life of the mother is threatened or when there is a fetal abnormality. Further, the bill would impose criminal penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and between $10,000 to $100,000 on abortion providers who break the law.

As the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wrote in a letter to the legislature:

SB 181 is extreme legislation that would neither withstand legal scrutiny nor protect the health of Louisiana women. This law blocks a woman’s access to safe healthcare options and unjustly denies her the freedom to make decisions according to her own beliefs and conscience.

Mississippi ratified a similar bill (without the criminal penalties and with exceptions for the life of the mother) whose constitutionality was immediately challenged. Oklahoma passed  similar legislation but their governor (Mary Fallin, who has a long record anti-LGBT bills she is willing to sign) vetoed it on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and against medical advice.

I am furious with the members of the Senate and House who voted for this bill. The personal religious beliefs of legislators should not usurp the medical decision making of private citizens. I am angry that they are putting their fetus fetish over the rights of living, breathing, taxpaying and voting women. Further, with our state facing a budget shortfall of $650 million, this blatantly unconstitutional legislation is just going to waste taxpayer money when the state is forced to try and defend it in the courts.

But I’m also angry at Democratic governor John Bel Edwards. After the House vote, he was asked by Amy Irvin, Executive Director of the New Orleans Abortion Fund, to put aside his personal beliefs, show leadership and veto 181. He responded “I won’t do that.”

I supported his candidacy for governor. I supported him because he promised to expand Medicaid, to support equal pay and raise the minimum wage as well as fight for fairness for the LGBTQ community.

Before the election, he did not hide that he was pro-life and made clear he would not support reducing any of Louisiana’s current restrictions on abortion. However, in meetings with women’s organizations, he did promise that he would not make abortion a central issue of his office nor would he work to place additional constraints on women’s reproductive rights. I know; I was there.

By saying that he won’t veto this bill, Governor Edwards is putting his personal beliefs over medical experts and ignoring constitutional law. Abortion is legal and is a necessary component  of reproductive justice.

As SisterSong has defined it:

Reproductive Justice is a positive approach that links sexuality, health, and human rights to social justice movements by placing abortion and reproductive health issues in the larger context of the well-being and health of women, families and communities because reproductive justice seamlessly integrates those individual and group human rights particularly important to marginalized communities. We believe that the ability of any woman to determine her own reproductive destiny is directly linked to the conditions in her community and these conditions are not just a matter of individual choice and access.

The fight for women’s equality is inextricably linked to control over reproduction. John Bel Edwards speaks regularly about the necessity for women’s equity in the workplace for a better and healthier Louisiana. If he will only expand his mind to understand that women will not truly be empowered economically until they are able to access the full range of reproductive health services.

I’m not saying I won’t vote for John Bel Edwards again, especially if the alternative is Jeff Landry. However, he will be losing votes and supporters over this. As will the Democratic party in Louisiana that has once again caved to the anti-choice extremists and proved that the rights (and lives) of women matter little to them.

Elections matter. And maybe that is just what these politicians need to learn – there is a wave of progressive women activists coming and we are pissed!

 

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The title comes from a quote from Sarah Grimke, used to great effect by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in oral arguments before the Supreme Court. I highly recommend seeing the new documentary RBG, in theaters now.

Here is the trailer:

 

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