There is much to love about my home state of Louisiana- the spicy Cajun and Creole cuisine, warm weather, friendly people, entertaining politics, and of course, the LSU Tigers. However, my favorite thing about Louisiana is our unique commitment as a state to protecting mothers and children from the harms of abortion.
While most states have intense battles over the abortion issue, Louisiana has long since abandoned the typical partisan divide over abortion, becoming one of the most pro-life states in the nation. In the 2015 Gubernatorial Election, not only did all of the major candidates run on a pro-life platform, it was a pro-life Democrat, John Bel Edwards, who eventually emerged as the victor. Being pro-life was more than just a platform plank to win votes in a red state for Governor Edwards, and I was privileged to witness his strong commitment to life first hand as I worked with him and his staff on a number of important pro-life bills during the 2016 Legislative Session.
Not only was Gov. Edwards willing to meet with pro-life leaders to discuss our bills, but he made it a point to make his staff available to assist us in the drafting and presentation of the legislation. Gov. Edwards even sent his Chief of Staff Ben Nevers, a prominent former Democratic Senator, to testify in committee in favor of a bill defunding Planned Parenthood in the state.
While Gov. Edwards was extremely significant to recent pro-life efforts, he is not the only Democrat in Louisiana that stands strongly for life: State Representative Katrina Jackson has been one of the most powerful pro-life voices in the legislature for many years, and her position as the former Chairwoman Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus makes her a force to be reckoned with. Likewise, State Senator Regina Barrow has become a vocal pro-life leader in the Senate since the retirement of former pro-life Senator, and current Baton Rouge Mayor, Sharon Weston Broome. With these leaders led the charge in both houses, 88% of all Louisiana Legislators had a perfect pro-life voting record according to Louisiana Right to Life’s 2016 scorecard.
How is it, that in the face of so many other polarizing issues facing the state of Louisiana and our nation over the past few years, both Republicans and Democrats have managed to come together over an issue that most of the country deems one of the most controversial? The answer is simple- in Louisiana, abortion is not a partisan issue, it is a human rights issue. When we take politics out of the equation, we are left with the facts: abortion ends a human life, and abortion hurts women.
Since Roe v. Wade more than 56 million human lives have been ended, and countless women, men, and families have been harmed by the physical and emotional toll of abortion. It is for this reason that prominent Democrats like Gov. Edwards, Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have rejected their party’s stance on abortion and bravely stood for life, and they are not alone: Pew Research found last year that 28% of Democratic voters opposed abortion.
While Louisiana politics are usually a punchline, in this case, other states could learn a valuable lesson from our depoliticicization of the abortion issue. As a pro-life Independent voter, is it extremely important to me that central human rights issues such as the right to life are not trivialized by making them purely partisan, ideological debates. We need everyone- Democrat, Republican, Independent, to join in the fight to make abortion unthinkable and unnecessary.
Attorney Deanna Wallace is staff counsel at Americans United for Life.