With over 60% of voters saying “Yes,” Louisiana passed a constitutional amendment on Election Day which simply states there is no state constitutional right to an abortion.
Back in March 2019, Democratic state Senator Katrina Jackson filed a bill in the state House to get the constitutional amendment on the ballot. A ⅔ majority in both the state’s House and Senate was needed to approve the bill so the proposed amendment could be added to the primaries ballot in October, and needed over 50% approval on the primaries ballot to get on the Nov. 2020 General Election ballot.
The proposed amendment made it through all obstacles and on Nov. 3, 2020, was passed with about 62% of voters’ approval. This is not surprising, as one poll showed approximately 70% of likely General Election voters in LA considered themselves pro-life and 71% thought taxpayer funding of abortion should not be allowed.
The text of the amendment is very simple:
“To protect human life, nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”
And what showed up on the ballot for voters was simply stated:
“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? (Adds Article I, Section 20.1)”
The simple phrasing for the amendment (unlike what you might see for a proposed tax levy or other ballot initiatives) means people know exactly what they voted for when they voted “Yes.”
While the governor’s signature is not needed on a constitutional amendment like it would be needed on normal legislative bills, pro-life Democratic Governor Jon Bel Edwards did back the measure, stating,
“We want to make it clear that the Louisiana constitution does not provide for the right to an abortion. That’s what this bill does, and what it does clearly.”
However, the amendment is still facing opposition, with abortion-choice advocates like Lift Louisiana pointing out that the amendment would allow LA to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned. In a classic case of irony, they also stated, “The constitution should protect affirm [sic] people's rights, not to take them away.” Yet they do not understand how abortion infringes on people’s most basic rights, like life and liberty.
The argument against the amendment from PAR, a non-partisan, independent review of all of Louisiana’s constitutional amendments on the 2020 ballot, pointed out much the same thing. The amendment has no immediate effect, but really would only become an issue to restricting abortion access if Roe v. Wade were overturned and LA had the power given back to their state to decide on abortion legislation.
In favor of the amendment, Senator Katrina Jackson explained,
“It’s important to understand that Amendment 1 is not a ban on abortion. It simply keeps abortion policy in the hands of our legislators rather than state judges. If Amendment 1 passes, our Legislature would still have the ability to modify any state abortion law. Therefore, Amendment 1 has nothing to do with commonly debated exceptions to abortion. All of those matters can still be handled in the state legislative process...Amendment 1 keeps abortion out of our state constitution, and keeps abortion policy in the hands of our legislators rather than state judges. Regardless of where you stand on abortion, I believe we can come together and support Amendment 1.”
PAR also pointed out in their argument for the amendment that this amendment ensures abortion legislation is firmly in the hands of the people of the State, not judges:
“The purpose of this amendment is to place the abortion issue in the hands of the people through their elected officials and their statewide vote on this amendment, rather than with their state court judges...Judicial consideration of such important issues should be decided on the clear intent of law passed by the Legislature rather than on legal ambiguities.”
With this vote, LA has taken a stand for acknowledging the human rights of all humans and is now in position to be protected constitutionally and legislatively should Roe v. Wade be overturned and abortion legislation is allowed to be decided at the individual state level again.