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."
Mike Harson's coffers show the advantage of incumbency.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will vote on an ordinance for final adoption Tuesday that, if approved, would give the city the green light to take over a stretch of Verot School Road from the state Department of Transportation and Development.
The Louisiana Association of Educators filed a lawsuit challenging the $60 million in spending through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
He's been out of office for nearly a decade, but former U.S. Sen. John Breaux is back on the campaign trail, urging voters to support his one-time colleague, Democrat Mary Landrieu.
The unresolved fate of the ashes left behind after Ebola waste was destroyed in Texas highlights the problem U.S. hospitals and communities could face in disposing of their own waste.
While much of the talk was about whether New Orleans could win a big game — or any game, for that matter — on the road, the conversation in the Saints' locker room was about something completely different.
State health officials told thousands of doctors planning to attend a tropical diseases meeting this weekend in New Orleans to stay away if they have been to certain African countries or have had contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days.
Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama's deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.
Compared to the rest of the country, Lafayette has it pretty good when it comes to the cost and speed of our Internet.
Hello Kitty turns 40; police ambush suspect caught; Knicks surprise Cavs and more national and international news for Friday, October 31, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will consider on Tuesday a revised plan to the transform a block in Downtown Lafayette into a mixed-use residential-retail-commercial development that doesn’t include giving title to the property to the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority, an arrangement the council rejected earlier this month.
Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.