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Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany, left, clasps hands with Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, just after passage of the bill the handled on the House side, the 'fetal heartbeat' bill by Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, Wednesday, May 29, 2019.

Last week, during a monthly radio call-in show that normally doesn’t veer into such sensitive territory, a caller asked Gov. John Bel Edwards why he’d “prefer I have to give birth to my rapist's baby" rather than have an abortion.

Edwards’ response: "Obviously that’s a hypothetical I never would want to happen to you or anyone else."

Of course he wouldn’t want that. Nobody would. Not the vast majority of Louisiana lawmakers who voted to ban abortion at all but the earliest stages of pregnancy, with no exception for rape or incest victims. And not Edwards, the Democrat who has long touted his anti-abortion stance and who has said he’ll sign Senate Bill 184 into law.

But it would happen, and the newly-passed bill sentences these women — and even children, as some lawmakers pointed out during an emotional debate Wednesday over whether to add in the two exceptions — to a devastating situation. Expressing sympathy, as House member after House member did before voting against the amendment and for the bill, doesn’t do anything for them, or for the others who face difficult, immensely personal decisions.

Thus Louisiana is poised to join a handful of other conservative states in adopting draconian legislation in the hope that the current incarnation of the U.S. Supreme Court will allow restrictions that vastly limit abortion, if not declare the right recognized in Roe v. Wade moot. This bill would ban the procedure before many women know they’re pregnant, would criminalize doctors, and would allow exceptions only for pregnancies that are “medically futile” or to “prevent the death of a pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” It would take effect if a similar bill passed by Mississippi, and so far blocked by the courts, is allowed to take effect.

That such a bill would pass the Louisiana Legislature was predictable. Lawmakers have adopted sharp restrictions before with little push back, and long ago enacted a “trigger” bill, signed by Democrat Kathleen Blanco, to make abortion illegal if the high court sends the decision back to the states.

Nor is it a surprise that Edwards would be on board. He’s not only personally against abortion, but also has made it clear that he thinks his stance was an important element of his unexpected victory four years ago.

That doesn’t mean that this is bill doesn’t change things. With Brett Kavanaugh having replaced Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, the possibility of vastly restricted reproductive rights is much more immediate. So is the likelihood that the law will give sought-after tech and entertainment companies second thoughts about locating here. And that’s not even considering the immense difficulties that Louisiana women, particularly those of limited means, would face were it to take effect.

After the bill passed, Edwards announced that he’d sign it but also quickly pivoted to asking 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.”

Obviously that’s something they should do anyway, and the governor is right that they often fall well short. But if Edwards is hoping this suggestion will change the subject and fend off future calls like the one he got last week, he’s got another thing coming.


Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.