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Gov. Edwards signs trigger law that could ban most abortions

The trigger law would take effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned

NEW ORLEANS — Most abortions will be banned in Louisiana if the Supreme Court overturns a landmark decision. That decision to throw out Roe v. Wade could come within the next eight days. Tuesday, Governor John Bel Edwards signed Senate Bill 342 into law. The law does not include exceptions for rape or incest. 

"It's essentially our trigger law," said Sarah Zagorski with Louisiana Right to Life. "It's an exciting time for us as we're waiting for hopefully the reversal of Roe in the coming days."

Sponsored by Democrat Senator Katrina Jackson from Monroe, the new law expands on a trigger law that was adopted in Louisiana in 2006, clarifying that it includes exceptions of medical futility, meaning doctors believe the baby won't survive after birth or if it's an ectopic pregnancy, meaning the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus and could kill the mother.

"It actually narrows what is permitted," said Rep. Mandie Landry, a Democrat from New Orleans who spoke out against the bill. 

It would increase penalties for providers who perform abortions. They'd face one to 10 years in prison and fines of $10,000 to $100,000. It would also require two physicians to determine if a pregnancy is medically futile.

"You don't need two physicians for anything else," Landry said. "it's really just harmful. It makes things a lot more complicated."

Currently, there are three abortion clinics in Louisiana. They are located in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport. If Roe v. Wade is overturned and the trigger law goes into effect, the clinics would immediately shut down.

"So for a woman who needs an abortion, she will have to fly out of state; New York, Chicago, New Mexico," Landry said.

The bill would not ban birth control pills or emergency contraception. While SB342 does not include rape or incest as exceptions, Governor Edwards said the bill clarifies that 'pregnancy and the life of an unborn child begin at implantation, rather than fertilization.'

This allows the use of emergency contraception before a pregnancy can be clinically diagnosed. 

"Every baby should be protected under law and the person who commits a violent crime of rape should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, we just don’t believe the victim should also be the unborn child," Zagorski said. 

"My position on abortion has been unwavering. I am pro-life and have never hidden from that fact. This does not belie my belief that there should be an exception to the prohibition on abortion for victims of rape and incest," Governor Edwards said in his signing letter. "However, vetoing Senate Bill 342 would not accomplish that end. In fact, vetoing Senate Bill 342 would leave fewer exceptions in place than if the bill becomes law and would further confuse whether pregnancy begins at fertilization or implantation. For these reasons, I have signed Senate Bill 342 into law." 

It's unclear exactly when the Supreme Court's decision on Roe v. Wade will come down, but it is expected by the end of the month. 

The governor also signed into law SB388, which clarifies criminal penalties for anyone who distributes abortion pills.

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