BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, said Tuesday that he’s not concerned about losing support among his party’s voters in Louisiana because of a strict abortion ban he signed into law .
The governor, seeking a second term on the October ballot, said he knows some people “were disappointed” that he supported the ban on abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
“On the other hand there were a lot of people who were very happy about it as well. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t a political consideration,” Edwards said, asked about the abortion ban after a separate bill signing. “It was me being true to myself and true to what I told the people of Louisiana that I was, and I’ve been very clear about that.”
Louisiana was the fifth state to enact a so-called “heartbeat law,” joining Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia. Alabama has gone further , outlawing virtually all abortions. Louisiana’s law doesn’t contain exceptions for pregnancies from rape or incest. The state’s law, however, only takes effect if the law in neighboring Mississippi, which was recently blocked by a judge, is upheld by a federal appeals court.
Edwards, a Catholic, ran as an anti-abortion candidate four years ago and has signed several abortion restrictions into law since he took office in 2016. But the governor has faced more outspoken Democratic criticism about this latest legislation, with Democrats panning him for weeks leading up to and after his May 30 signing of the abortion ban.
Opponents said the laws, none of which have taken effect, would effectively eliminate abortion as an option before many women realize they are pregnant and would violate constitutional privacy protections.
Criticism of Edwards even came from the head of the Louisiana Democratic Party, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson of New Orleans, who repeatedly posted opposition messages to the abortion ban on Twitter and criticized it on the Senate floor.
After the bill signing, Peterson posted: “Embarrassing! Apologies to LA women, particularly for the disrespect to women victimized by rape or incest.” But she didn’t directly slam Edwards by name, and the party is supporting him for reelection.
Edwards said Tuesday that he didn’t expect the abortion ban to cost him Democratic backing as he faces two Republican challengers: U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone.
“At the end of the day, because of all of the good that we’ve done in Louisiana over the last three and a half years, I fully expect that we’re going to be just fine in this race,” Edwards said.