Louisiana is on its way to becoming the second state in the United States with a 15-week abortion ban.
On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Senate passed the Senate Bill 181, which bans abortions at 15 weeks of gestation without exceptions for cases of rape and incest. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, who supports abortion restrictions, said that he intends to sign the measure into law.
A similar ban was enacted in Mississippi in March, before it was temporarily blocked by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves. Last month, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) filed a major lawsuit against Mississippi, challenging dozens of anti-choice laws in the state on behalf of the state’s only abortion provider, the Jackson Women’s Health Center.
Reproductive justice advocates say these 15-week-abortion bans represent a new trend in abortion restrictions.
“We’re seeing this big push to limit abortion later in pregnancy, but also imposing a gestational time limit that becomes shorter and shorter over time,” Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, told Refinery29 at the time. “We’ve seen bills that are blatantly unconstitutional. So, the next move by abortion opponents is to come up with a ban that is later in pregnancy than six weeks, but earlier than 20 weeks.”
If Gov. Edwards signs the bill into law, it’s likely the legislation will be challenged in court. In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld women’s right to choose an abortion before viability. (A fetus is not viable before 20 weeks of pregnancy, according to most researchers.) Since then, the courts have interpreted abortion bans before the 20-week mark to be unconstitutional.
“Banning access to abortion at 15 weeks is a flat-out violation of Roe v. Wade and Louisiana knows it. So little faith does Louisiana have in the constitutionality of their abortion ban that it won’t go into effect unless they get an okay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. We are confident that will not happen,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of CRR, said in a statement provided to Refinery29.
“Louisiana already has five federal lawsuits filed against their relentless battle to deprive women of abortion access and it’s inviting another one,” Northup added. “It’s time the state stopped wasting taxpayer money on defending blatantly unconstitutional laws and focused instead on improving health care for Louisiana women and families.”
Louisiana, which currently bans abortion at 20 weeks, is one of the states with the most restrictive laws on abortion.
The new 15-week abortion ban, which could become law in the coming days, is just the latest attack against reproductive rights in the country. Earlier this month, Iowa banned abortion at six weeks of gestation, when most women don’t even know are pregnant.
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