In 1990, pro-life and pro-choice forces made it nearly impossible to navigate the state Capitol. Lawmakers who supported forms of abortion were cursed at and threatened by opponents, who in turn were dragged away by state police. A few pro-choice advocates managed to get press badges and make it onto the House floor. National news networks ran special reports about the abortion legislation's odyssey; former Gov. Buddy Roemer vetoed the original bill, wanting to exempt victims of rape and incest, and crafty lawmakers reinserted the slightly accommodating language into an unrelated flag-burning bill.
Roemer vetoed the second version as well, but lawmakers didn't have the votes in the Senate to override the decision. The following year, however, lawmakers came back with the same legislation and were able to override Roemer's veto ' the only time that has happened in recent history.
"You're bringing up some bad memories for me," Roemer recalls. "But I vetoed that sucker because it was just so unconstitutional."
In the end, Louisiana adopted one of the strictest abortion laws in the United States. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists subsequently pulled their convention from New Orleans, but other ripple effects were halted when a federal court struck down Louisiana's original abortion ban in 1992.
Fast-forward 14 years, and there are at least four abortion-related bills filed in the latest session of the Louisiana Legislature that stretches into June. (There's even another flag-burning bill.) But for this go-round, the U.S. Supreme Court is more conservative, and many lawmakers ' including the Louisiana authors ' are pointing to anti-abortion bills as a way to carve up the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
The first salvo was fired earlier this month by South Dakota lawmakers, who made it illegal in their state for doctors to perform abortions unless it threatens the life of the mother. There are no exceptions for rape or incest, and violating doctors could face up to five years in prison.
Jim Sedlak, vice-president of the American Life League, one the nation's largest pro-life organizations, says all the stars have finally aligned for his group's cause, and the first successful bill in South Dakota is a "monumental step toward ending abortion in this country and protecting all innocent human beings ' born and preborn."
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the leading provider of U.S.-based abortion services, says Louisiana isn't alone in its follow-up to the South Dakota legislation ' at least 10 other states are prepared to debate similar bills. For each one that passes, Planned Parenthood is mobilizing action.
"In every state, women, their families and their doctors should be making private, personal health care decisions, not politicians," Richards says. "These abortion bans, and the politicians supporting them, are far outside the mainstream of America. Planned Parenthood will fight these attacks in court."
In Louisiana, Sen. Ben Nevers, a Bogalusa Democrat, has filed a bill to ban all abortions, except those that save a mother's life, and makes no exception for rape and incest. The crime of abortion would be punishable by one to 10 years in jail and a fine of $10,000 to $100,000, according to the legislation. Rep. Tim Burns, a Mandeville Republican, has included similar penalties in his bill, but he does make an exception for incest and rape.
Rep. Carl Crane, a Baton Rouge Republican elected in 1982, doesn't want a repeat of the early-90s abortion coverage, which he says was blown out of proportion and sensationalized by the media.
"I hope the media doesn't preoccupy itself with this," Crane says. "I don't think it's going to be an important issue. It has been pretty well dissipated. And the whole issue of abortion then was mischaracterized. Everyone thought we were spending so much time on the issue, and that's all you heard about. But if you consider the amount of time spent in committee and in debate, it wasn't that much."
If any of these measures reaches the desk of Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Catholic and a Democrat, it's clear what she might do. She stated many times during her run for governor that she thinks abortions should be allowed only in cases of rape, incest and to save a mother's life. She also favors a ban on "partial birth," or late-term, abortions.
A majority of Louisiana lawmakers, many of whom are devoutly religious in a somewhat conservative state, stand by the governor's opposition to outright abortions. That doesn't mean the debate will be docile and unified ' inside or outside the legislative chambers.
"You can go ahead and put the saddle on the horse, because I'm sure it will be a rough ride," says Rep. Warren Triche, a Chackbay Democrat who was serving his first term during the last abortion debate. "It will take a great deal of limelight out of the session."
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.