Governor Jon Bel Edwards signs 'fetal heartbeat' bill, Cantrell and city officials gear up for hurricane season, U.S. Rep. Steve King slams Louisiana for Katrina response — again, state lawmakers grapple with the minimum age for marriage, and more. Here's what you need to know in New Orleans this week:
Governor signs 'fetal heartbeat' bill — no exceptions for rape or incest
After hours of personal stories and debate, the Louisiana House passed the so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill last week that would ban abortion around the sixth week of pregnancy. The vote was 79-23, and Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the bill May 30.
The bill, authored by State Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, would require doctors to perform an ultrasound prior to an abortion to determine if a fetal heartbeart was present. They would then have to keep a copy of that ultrasound in a patient’s medical records.
The Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a statement saying the organization was committed to fighting to keep the bill from taking effect.
“Senate Bill 184 is a plainly unconstitutional reminder of just how far Louisiana politicians are willing to go to interfere in these deeply personal medical decisions and force women to continue pregnancies against their will," said Alanah Odoms Hebert, the chapter's executive director. "We’re committed to making sure this brazen attack on the constitutional right to abortion access never takes effect.”
State Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, said bringing the bill forward was a “very solemn responsibility.”
"In Louisiana, we have a culture of love of life, love of family and love of God,” Hodges said. “The heartbeat is the biggest indication of life there is.”
Hodges shared a personal story with members about her son and his pregnant wife being told their child would not have a brain. They chose not to have an abortion and the child was born healthy, she said. Her family history is similar to that of Gov. John Bel Edwards and his wife Donna, who chose not to have an abortion when their daughter was diagnosed in vitro with spina bifida.
State Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, who opposed the bill, said, “One thing was very consistent in both of those stories is that they had a conversation as a family — they made a choice.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has signed one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion bills into law, a measure that would ban…
The ban — which passed the Senate 31-5 earlier this month — would outlaw abortion before many women know they are pregnant. At six weeks, a woman has missed her period for only a few weeks, and factors unrelated to pregnancy, such as diet and stress, can cause late periods.
Louisiana’s new law is contingent on ongoing battles over Mississippi’s “heartbeat bill,” which was signed into law in March. Last week, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves temporarily blocked the law, which was set to go into effect July 1.
The only exceptions to the ban would be if the physician determines the abortion is necessary to prevent the death or “a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” of the pregnant woman — or for “medically futile” pregnancies in which the fetus would be unable to live after birth.
James and State Rep. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, proposed an amendment that would have made exceptions to the ban if the woman said her pregnancy was a result of rape or incest. The amendment failed by a vote of 35-67.
Another failed amendment by State Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, would have given victims of rape and incest 10 weeks to decide to have an abortion. Stokes, who regularly votes for abortion restrictions, said she was nervous to bring up the amendment forward, citing a good relationship with many of the bill’s proponents as well as the Louisiana Family Forum and Louisiana Right to Life.
Hodges repeatedly stated the bill would outlaw abortions after 10-12 weeks, referring to a handout she passed out on the floor that she said came from the Louisiana Department of Health. However, previous expert testimony and reports have said it would ban them after six weeks. Stokes brought this up on the floor as a reason she was proposing her amendment.
Physicians who violated the proposed law would be fined up to $1,000 per incident, imprisoned for up to two years or both. The violation also could be grounds for suspending or revoking a medical license.
Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio already have passed similar bans, and several other state legislatures are considering following suit. — KAYLEE POCHE
Is Louisiana the next Alabama or Missouri when it comes to the right to an abortion?
Cantrell, city officials announce 2019 hurricane season plans
Mayor LaToya Cantrell, surrounded by more than 40 city officials and emergency response partners, said at a press conference last week that New Orleans’ city-assisted hurricane evacuation strategy for this year’s hurricane season is to pay close attention to water levels when assessing the severity of a storm.
“Something that we have to stay focused on is the water, not so much the level of a storm,” Cantrell said. “It's the water that has the greatest impact on our city and on our people.”
Officials stressed the importance of residents making an evacuation plan now that includes any elderly family members and pets and registering anyone who may need extra assistance during an emergency by calling 311 or visiting ready.nola.gov.
District C City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer praised the Cantrell administration for its hurricane preparation efforts. “I have seen an incredible amount of preparedness in my district and throughout the city in the past year that I've not seen in previous administrations,” she said.
Ben Schott, the meteorologist who heads the National Weather Service office in Slidell, said this hurricane season — June 1 through Nov. 30 — is predicted to be “average.” (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted four to eight hurricanes this year.) However, he urged residents to make a plan should a storm hit the city. “It only takes one,” he said, a sentiment echoed by several other speakers.
Shaun Ferguson, superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), said that all eight districts in the area are equipped with gas-powered generators, boats, trailers and high-water vehicles. Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) Director Ghassan Korban said 116 of the city’s 120 pumps are “ready and available to be used at a moment's notice.”
Ben Schott, the meteorologist who heads the National Weather Service office in Slidell, said this hurricane season — June 1 through Nov. 30 — is predicted to be an “average season.” However, he urged residents to make a plan should a storm hit the city.
When asked what impact a hurricane could have on the Mississippi River given its recent elevated levels, Dana Ray, civil engineer at the Army Corps of Engineers, said that even with the higher water levels, “a storm surge in the river would not elevate it any higher to where it will overtop the bank.”
Officials reminded residents to call 911 for life-threatening emergencies only and to use 311 for information or to register for additional services should the city call an evacuation.
Cantrell reminded residents that the Smoothie King Center, which the city announced last week was New Orleans' new evacuation site, was “a place of last resort. This is not somewhere that you can go just to go. It's to get out.” — KAYLEE POCHE
U.S. Rep. Steve King slams Louisiana for Katrina response — again
In March, U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, slammed Louisiana and New Orleans for the official response to Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods, drawing rebukes from officials including Gov. John Bel Edwards. King did so again last week at a town hall in Hornick, Iowa, which flooded two months ago when its own levee breached.
"I've been to other disasters, hurricane disasters, where people didn't step up like you all stepped up here in Hornick. And so, I mentioned that," King said, according to an account in the Sioux City Journal. "I am going to omit the geography here, so we don't end up with a national media firestorm.
"But everybody in that state had to get on their Twitter account or do a press conference to tell how offended they were that, I guess, they didn't meet the standards of Hornick."
Edwards had responded to King's March remarks, tweeting, "These comments are disgusting and disheartening. When communities are affected by disasters, we come together to help each other, not tear each other down."
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise chimed in, saying, "His comments about Katrina victims are absurd and offensive, and are a complete contradiction to the strength and resilience the people of New Orleans demonstrated to the entire nation in the wake of the total devastation they experienced."
U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat who represents New Orleans, was more blunt. ”My heart goes out to all Iowans," Richmond tweeted. "Though it unsettles me that @SteveKingIA would dare compare them to the countless victims of Katrina, many of whom lost their lives. When people show you who they are, believe them. Steve King is a white supremacist and I won’t stand for it."
In March, U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, slammed Louisiana and New Orleans for the official response to Hurricane Katrina and the federal flood…
Richmond's "white supremacist" comment came a couple of months after King had given a controversial interview to The New York Times, in which he asked, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
Public reaction — from both Democrats and Republicans — was swift. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning white supremacy (for which King voted yes) and removed King from the powerful Judiciary and Agricultural Committees.
King made reference to those removals yesterday, according to the Sioux City Journal: "King said some House members, unasked by him to take the step, are working to see him put back on committees. 'They were appalled by the injustice of this,' King said, while asserting he was misquoted by the Times.” — KEVIN ALLMAN
How young is too young to be married in Louisiana?
A Louisiana House committee advanced a bill last week that would set 16 as the minimum age for marriage in the state. Louisiana currently does not have a legal minimum age for marriage. Minors need parental consent to get married, and if they are under 16 they need parental consent and the authorization from a juvenile court judge.
Under the proposed law, sponsored by state Sen. Yvonne Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, minors 16 and 17 seeking to get married would have to obtain the permission of a parent and a judge.
Some committee members did not agree that 16 was old enough and contended that 18 would be the appropriate age. State Reps. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, and Mike Johnson, R-Pineville, advocated raising the age to 18. Referring to a bill that previously was struck down, Magee asked why lawmakers had supported a proposal that would have raised the minimum smoking age to 21, but not a child marriage ban.
“We want to trust [minors] to make the most important decision of their entire lives when their brains aren’t even fully formed yet,” Magee said in the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure. “I think it’s very shortsighted of us. The more lightly we take it, the less serious people [will] take it,” he added.
A Louisiana House committee advanced a bill on Tuesday that would set 16 as the minimum age for marriage in the state.
The committee also approved an amendment to the marriage age bill that would limit the possible age difference to two years, instead of four. Legislators, including Magee, voiced concern at the idea of a 16-year-old being able to marry a 20-year-old under the proposed law.
“It’s not a perfect bill and we don’t live in a perfect world, but I think it’s a good start,” Johnson said about the amendment after the meeting.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed that certain circumstances, such as the right to receive military benefits, would warrant underage spouses getting married to enlisted members.
The proposal previously passed the Senate floor in a 22-15 vote after it was amended to set the minimum age at 16. During the committee hearing, Colomb said 16 was the compromise chosen because it is the age required to get a driver’s license in the state. — LAUREN HEFFKER & TRYFON BOUKOUVIDIS | LSU MANSHIP SCHOOL NEWS SERVICE
Voodoo Fest lineup to be released June 4
The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience (aka Voodoo Fest) will announce its 2019 lineup Tuesday, June 4, at 10 a.m., and tickets will go on sale Thursday, June 6 at 10 a.m. The festival, which once again will be held in New Orleans City Park, will take place Oct. 25-27.
Three-day general admission passes are $140, with a three-day VIP pass for $400 (which includes access to elevated viewing decks, a VIP lounge, "complimentary haircuts, face painting and tarot card readings" and more).
This year also will feature a Thursday night "feast under the stars" with a five-course meal prepared by Aaron Sanchez, with wine pairings. Tickets for that event are $165.
As for who may be playing, one hint: Earlier this month, Americana singer Brandi Carlile announced Voodoo as one of her tour stops Oct. 25. The press release was recalled and reissued without the Voodoo date on it. — KEVIN ALLMAN
The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience (aka Voodoo Fest) will announce its 2019 lineup next Tuesday, June 4 at 10 a.m., and tickets will go on sal…