New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno and Vice President Jason Williams said they received many angry calls and emails after they announced last week they would introduce a council resolution condemning the state’s passage of a law that would ban abortions in the state after six weeks.
The same pushback from anti-abortion activists, including members of the Louisiana Right to Life, continued in public testimony — but so did fervent support from abortion-rights activists.
Ultimately, all seven members of the council voted in favor of the resolution — a symbolic measure that gave the council a platform to add their voices to a statewide and national debate.
The bill does not contain exceptions for rape and incest. Both exceptions were heavily discussed on the House floor but the majority of lawmakers voted against them.
“Let the vapid calls and emails continue,” Williams said. “I’m going to do what is morally right.”
Moreno said that the ban would not stop women from having abortions but would limit access to safe abortions. "If the goal was to reduce abortions through this legislation, it is ineffective," she said.
"Let’s stop doubting women,” she added as cheers and applause erupted. “Let’s continue to fight against this government intrusion.”
There has been debate over what to call the legislation Louisiana and other states have passed with language stating they ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Some call them “fetal heartbeat” laws, while others argue that the “heartbeat” heard at this stage is a flutter of electrical activity because the embryo’s heart is not yet developed at six weeks.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, an anti-abortion Democrat, signed the “fetal heartbeat” bill or “6-week ban” into law a day after the House passed it by a large margin. It will only go into effect if courts uphold a similar law passed by Mississippi in March.
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Mississippi federal judge Carlton Reeves temporarily blocked the law to prevent it from going into effect on July 1. Reeves is also the same judge who declared Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban unconstitutional, the same ban to which a similar 2018 Louisiana law is also tied.
The passage of the law — and other anti-abortion measures passed through the state legislature by a large margin— drew outcry from both opponents and supporters. Both pro-abortion rights and anti-abortion rallies were held in the state.
At the City Council meeting, those in favor of the resolution and those against it disagreed over when life began and who should have the final say over whether a woman has an abortion, but both agreed that the state needed to provide more resources and assistance for pregnant women and families.