The Louisiana Senate had approved a bill aiming to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy but not before adding an amendment to avoid a legal challenge in court.
Senate Bill 181, introduced by pro-life Democrat Sen. John Milkovich, was passed in the Senate by a vote of 31–3 on Tuesday. However, Sen. Danny Martiny (R-Metairie) had included a provision that the legislation will not take effect until a similar law in Mississippi is upheld by federal courts.
"This is a win-win in the interim. ... This amendment will make sure that we spend no money litigating this issue," said Martiny, according to Gambit Weekly.
Louisiana would be the second state in the nation to introduce a ban on abortion after 15 weeks into pregnancy.
The Mississippi law was passed in March, but it was blocked by a judge just a day after it was signed into law by the governor.
Milkovich contended that his bill "recognizes the right of the state after 15 weeks to protect the lives of the unborn. This is a great step forward."
The pro-life Democrat had expressed his opposition to Martiny's amendment, saying "I think the babies are worth the money."
During the legislative testimony, the New Orleans Abortion Fund's Amy Irvin denounced the bill as "cruel and dangerous."
Milkovich defended the bill, saying: "We know abortions past 15 weeks are brutal. They don't just kill the baby; they torture [the baby]. If we can save 20, 50, 100 babies, it's worth it."
The legislation is now headed to the Louisiana state House for consideration. Louisiana's Democratic governor, Bel Edwards, has indicated that he will likely sign the bill if it clears the legislature.
"It remains to be seen whether that bill will make its way through the process. I would be inclined to sign it if it hits my desk," Edwards stated in his monthly radio call-in show, according to the Associated Press.
Edwards, who described himself as "very much a pro-life individual," noted that he has not spoken to Milkovich or other pro-life lawmakers about Senate Bill 181.
Current Louisiana law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Under Senate Bill 181, abortionists who perform terminations beyond 15 weeks could be jailed for up to 10 years and fined between $10,000 to $100,000. The bill contains exceptions for cases when the woman's life is at risk. Women who seek an abortion after the said period will not be penalized.
Louisiana's Department of Health has reported that 97 percent of the abortions in 2017 were performed before 15 weeks. A total of 366 abortions were performed at 15 weeks or later that same year.