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Louisiana lawmakers pass fetal heartbeat abortion ban

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Louisiana lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, joining a string of other USA states restricting the termination of pregnancies as early as six weeks.

The so-called "heartbeat bill" bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is as early as the sixth week of pregnancy, before some women even know they're pregnant.

Several other conservative southern USA states have passed similar measures in recent weeks, including Alabama, whose anti-abortion law is the strictest in the country.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement that he "ran for governor as a pro-life candidate", and meant to sign the abortion ban. The law doesn't contain exceptions for pregnancies from rape or incest. It does include a ban exception if it could prevent a pregnant woman's death or "a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function".

The Louisiana law will not go into effect until Mississippi's similar legislation is upheld by a federal court, but so far, it faces legal challenges as a federal judge blocked the MS law by injunction on Friday. None of the bans has taken effect, and all are expected to face legal challenges. Alabama signed the most restrictive yet, a near-total ban on abortions unless the woman's life is at risk. Louisiana's law takes effect only if the law in neighboring MS, which was recently blocked by a judge, is upheld by a federal appeals court.

Although similar abortion bans have drawn sharp criticism from Democrats nationwide, Louisiana's proposal won wide bipartisan support and was sponsored by a Democrat from the north-west corner of the state, Senator John Milkovich. Edwards decision to sign puts him at odds with Democratic party leaders and pro-abortion activists who are casting the series of pro-life successes in dire terms.

"Missouri Governor Parson's remarks today are simply not based on medicine, facts, or reality", Planned Parenthood president Dr. Leana Wen said in a statement given to CBS News Wednesday.

Meanwhile, hundreds have taken to the streets and are protesting their local governments after these bills were signed into law.

So like anti-abortion lawmakers everywhere, the Louisiana pols seeking to revoke reproductive rights will have to wait and see if the Supreme Court's spanking-new five-Justice conservative bloc will succor them with a reversal or modification of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Those who do perform an abortion after this time could face up to two years in prison, and doctors and medical providers who do so could lose their medical license. It does, however, discomfit national Democrats supporting Edwards's reelection bid this year.

The U.S. Supreme Court may eventually be called upon to rule on the various state laws, which challenge the high court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that women have a constitutional right to an abortion.

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