Louisiana’s proposed ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion ban nears final legislative step

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A bill to ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected is one step closer to Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk.

The proposal, which already has state Senate support, won over a House health committee Wednesday without objection. It now heads to the House floor for final passage.

“We are still the same people today that we were when 23 chromosomes of our father united with the 23 chromosomes of our mother,” bill sponsor Sen. John Milkovich (D-Keithville) told lawmakers late last month.

The prohibition would not apply to cases in which a woman faces bodily harm. It would not exempt abortions of fetuses conceived during rape or incest.

The ban would take effect if a federal court upholds a similar law in Mississippi.

Opponents doubt the legality of such a ban, claiming that it would take effect before most women realize they are pregnant. Heartbeats typically form during the first four to six weeks of gestation.

Edwards, a pro-life Democrat, has signaled that he would sign Milkovich’s bill into law should it reach his office.

Milkovich’s measure one-ups his legislation from last year, to prohibit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The 2018 bill has been on hold pending a court decision on Mississippi’s abortion ban.

According to data from the Louisiana Bureau of Vital Records and Statistics, of the 8706 abortion procedures performed in 2017 (the most recent available data by week), 69.2% were performed before the 9th week of pregnancy. Below is a chart that details the number of abortions performed by week.

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