Abortion Survey

In this Monday, Jan. 24, 2011 file picture, anti-abortion and pro-choice activists stand next to each other in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington during a rally on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Americans, regardless of generation, are deeply conflicted as they wrestle with the legality and morality of abortion, with a substantial majority identifying themselves as both "pro-choice" and "pro-life," according to a sweeping new survey. The detailed and nuanced findings were released Thursday, June 9, 2011 by the Public Religion Research Institute, based on a survey of 3,000 adults _ one of the largest ever to focus on Americans' views of abortion. 

Abortions in Louisiana hit a 10-year low in 2018, as state lawmakers passed some of the nation's strictest abortion regulations.

The state Department of Health released unofficial figures Thursday that show there were 8,084 abortions in Louisiana last year – down from 10,211 in 2014. There were 6,816 abortions in Louisiana in 2008.

It’s the fourth consecutive year that the number of abortions has fallen.

The state has not yet released additional 2018 data that it collects on gestational age, race and other factors when abortions are performed.

Louisiana, which tends to be among states with the toughest restrictions on abortion access, has three abortion clinics — one each in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport. There were five when the Louisiana Legislature in 2014 passed a law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. That law is on hold while it's being challenged in court.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who took office in January 2016, has been vocal in his opposition to abortion. Edwards’ 2015 campaign for governor included a television ad that highlighted his personal story of doctors urging that his wife, Donna, have an abortion because of potential health complications with their oldest child. The couple refused the medical advice.

“My Catholic Christian faith teaches me to be pro-life,” he said in a statement Thursday on the latest figures. “This is personal for Donna and me, and we take it very seriously. We are committed to reducing the number of abortions in Louisiana, and the data shows that it is working."

Edwards credited the expansion of Medicaid and health care coverage it has provided, as well as an increase in the number of adoptions facilitated by the state with contributing to the decreased pregnancy terminations. More than 900 foster children were adopted in 2018 – a record number, and more than 302,000 women have enrolled in the Medicaid expansion.

But Edwards also has signed one of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws into effect that will outlaw abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy in Louisiana if a similar law in Mississippi survives a court challenge.

Louisiana currently prohibits abortion after 20 weeks. If the new law to go into effect, anyone who performed an abortion after 15 weeks could face up to two years in prison and a $1,000 fine. It contains no penalties for women who seek abortions.

Edwards is currently running for a second term in office. His Republican challengers in the gubernatorial race have both attempted to make abortion a campaign issue – largely by pointing out the national Democratic Party’s support for abortion rights. Both U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, of Alto, and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone have openly challenged whether Edwards is committed to opposing abortion.

“The people of Louisiana deserve a Governor who will work with the President to honor the sanctity of life,” Rispone tweeted earlier this month – one of several regular anti-abortion messages on his social media. 

Edwards has been lauded by Louisiana Right to Life and other anti-abortion groups since he was in the state House and during his time as governor. The Louisiana Right to Life Federation has given Edwards a 100 percent rating since 2008 for his anti-abortion stances.

"We believe our nation is waking up more every day to the injustice of abortion, and these numbers show the continued statewide and national trend toward life,” Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, said of the figures released Thursday. “We celebrate all those in the pro-life movement who offer support to pregnant moms before and after birth and those who help them choose life. We will continue to work until every baby is protected by law and welcomed with love."

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.