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."
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.