Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is catching hell from some national Democrats and a few Louisiana’s lawmakers and others for signing anti-abortion legislation, but the governor is “standing his ground.”
Edwards is demonstrating the true definition of that phrase, which means “to stand up for your beliefs not matter what.” The governor has a longtime pro-life record, and his willingness to buck his national party shows the strength of his character and his strong Catholic faith.
Donna, the governor’s wife, explained it best during Edwards’ successful 2015 gubernatorial campaign.
“I was 20 weeks pregnant with our first child when the doctor discovered that she had spina bifida and encouraged me to have an abortion,” Donna said. “I was devastated — but, John Bel never flinched. He said, ‘No, no; we’re going to love this baby no matter what.’ And, at that moment, I watched the boy I fell in love with become the man I’m still in love with today.”
The governor later said his daughter, Samantha, is now 24 years old and he and Donna couldn’t imagine what their lives would be without her, “and I tell this story with her permission.”
Edwards in a May 30 interview with The Washington Post said he traces his long-held views on abortion to his faith, adding that many of his constituents feel the same way.
“That’s the way I was raised,” he said during an October radio show. “I know that for many in the national party, on the national scene, that’s not a good fit. But I will tell you, here in Louisiana, I speak and meet with Democrats who are pro-life every single day.”
Tyler Bridges, in a story for The Advocate, said, “Progressive Democrats in Louisiana, particularly women, are furious at Gov. John Bel Edwards for signing an extreme anti-abortion bill, a development that could cause problems for the governor as he runs for re-election this fall.”
The feedback goes from those who are extremely upset with Edwards to others who have decided not to throw the governor to the wolves because of the positive steps he has taken as governor.
Bridges reported that Susie Smith posted her feelings on the Democratic Women of Acadiana Facebook page.
Smith said, “I am grateful he (Edwards) expanded Medicaid. But I shall no longer vote for him. For anything. At some point in time, one has to stand firmly for women’s rights.”
Then, there is Melissa Flournoy, a former state representative from Shreveport who now heads Louisiana Progress Action in Baton Rouge. She said a lot of progressive advocates and leaders throughout the state are frustrated by the abortion votes.
“Some will sit out the election and not vote for the governor,” Flournoy said. “We’re trying to keep people together because he’s the best person from a range of issues. I appreciate his commitment to education, expanding Medicaid and his desire to raise the minimum wage. Even though I disagree with his position on abortion, I’m sticking with John Bel.”
Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, sponsored a constitutional amendment that would prevent the state from protecting the right to an abortion or requiring funding for it.
Jackson told Here & Now that African-American babies are being aborted at alarming numbers, and abortion shouldn’t be touted as the answer for African-Americans who live in poverty.
“I would say that legislatively, those who say they care about African-American women in some ways have failed them, because they’ve put their focus on making sure abortion is legal instead of putting their focus on things that really matter that would have given her the education she needed regarding sex, access to health care and contraceptives. That’s the way to attack this.”
Kathleen Parker with the Washington Post Writers Group in her Sunday column said we should be talking about ways to end abortion.
“There are a hundred ideas out there waiting to be implemented, if we could only stop our political posturing long enough to imagine,” she said.
Senate Bill 184 that Edwards signed prohibits the abortion of an unborn human being with a detectable heartbeat. It cleared the 39-member Senate 31-5 and the 105-member House 79-23. The measure won’t take effect unless a similar Mississippi bill is upheld by a federal court.
Edwards knows his pro-life stance has riled many in his party, but he obviously feels comfortable with his decision. Eric Holl, one of the governor’s campaign spokesmen, told The Washington Times the governor respects others’ opinions, but he is always concerned with Louisianians first and his decision is in keeping with the pro-life positions he has always expressed.
“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,” Edwards said in a statement after the bill passed.
You can’t be any clearer than that.