Louisiana Voters Consider a Constitutional Amendment to Protect Unborn Children

POLITICS & POLICY
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At the polls today in Louisiana, voters will consider this proposed amendment to the state constitution: “Do you support an amendment declaring that, to protect human life, a right to abortion and the funding of abortion shall not be found in the Louisiana Constitution?”

If passed, the amendment would serve as a protection against legal abortion in Louisiana in the event that the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade or subsequent cases finding a right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution.

Louisiana already has passed what’s known as a “trigger law,” which provides that, if Roe and other abortion cases were to be overturned, abortion would be illegal in the state, except in cases when a mother’s life is at risk. This constitutional amendment would go a step further, preventing courts from finding a right to abortion in the Louisiana state constitution. In ten states, courts already have found that the state constitutions protect a right to abortion.

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If a majority of voters supports the measure, Louisiana will become the fourth state to declare that its state constitution does not protect a right to abortion or to funding for an abortion.

In 2014, Tennessee’s Amendment 1 received 52.6 percent of the vote, making Tennessee the first state to amend its constitution to ensure that it cannot be construed to protect a right to abortion or to require abortion funding. The amendment was proposed in response to a Tennessee Supreme Court ruling that asserted the state constitution protects a right to “procreational autonomy.”

In 2018, meanwhile, both Alabama and West Virginia passed similar amendments. Alabama’s Amendment 2 received almost 60 percent support from voters and, in addition to prohibiting a pro-abortion reading of the state constitution, affirmed that the state “recognizes and supports the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.”

West Virginia’s amendment passed more narrowly, with a little less than 52 percent of the vote. The amendment was a response to the West Virginia Supreme Court’s decision to require the state to fund elective abortion via Medicaid.

There hasn’t been much polling available on public opinion of Louisiana’s ballot initiative, but according to Pew Research Center data, a little less than two-thirds of Louisiana voters believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Louisiana is one of several states where pro-life Democratic politicians can still be elected; the state’s governor, John Bel Edwards, is a pro-life Democrat, as is state senator Katrina Jackson, who led the drive to place this initiative before voters on today’s ballot.

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