Can Democrats be pro-life? It turns out that they can be in Louisiana. When Pelican State legislators voted this week to pass a fetal heartbeat bill, it was the result of a bipartisan effort between Democrats and Republicans.
The Louisiana law, which bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected and contains no exception for rape or incest, was sponsored by a Democrat. Senator John Milkovich, who represents Shreveport, introduced the bill in the Senate while Rep. Valarie Hodges of Livingston Parish, a Republican, shepherded the bill through the House.
In the initial Senate vote, there was no Republican opposition and only Democrats voted, one for and one against the bill. Ten Senate Republicans and 13 Democrats did not vote. The final bill passed the House with overwhelming support. Republicans voted in a bloc for passage while Democrats were split almost equally.
After passage, the bill went to the governor, also a Democrat, to be signed into law. Gov. John Bel Edwards, who is the South’s only Democratic governor, signed the bill on Thursday afternoon.
In a statement, the governor said, “As I prepare to sign this bill, I call on the overwhelming bipartisan majority of legislators who voted for it to join me in continuing to build a better Louisiana that cares for the least among us and provides more opportunity for everyone.”
NOLA.com notes that Edwards, who is rated at 100 percent by Louisiana Right to Life, is a Catholic who views anti-abortion policy and the Medicaid expansion as both pro-life policies. The paper points out that other prominent Louisiana Democrats are also staunchly pro-life.
Nevertheless, Bart Stupak, a former Wisconsin congressman who is currently on the board for Democrats for Life says that Edwards’ pro-life stance will make fundraising from the big Democrat donors difficult. “If you’re trying to raise money on the national level, it gets very, very difficult,” he said. “There will be no money. There will be no help.”
Abortion has become a litmus test for many in the party, but Louisiana Democrats have shown that they are not afraid to stand up for life. National Democrats should learn from their example and allow Democratic candidates and officials to follow their conscience on the issue.
Opinions on the abortion issue vary across the country and locking their candidates into a one-size-fits-all pro-choice position often hurts Democratic candidates who run in conservative states. Many people who would support Democrats on other issues cannot bring themselves to vote for pro-abortion candidates. If Democrats can learn to tolerate pro-lifers in their midst, the party would be stronger for its ideological diversity.
Originally published on The Resurgent