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“Pro-life” Louisiana senator mistaken in calling abortion restrictions unconstitutional

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On Monday, we covered Louisiana lawmakers’ disturbing move to undermine legislation that would have banned abortions sought due to a child’s genetic abnormalities, changing it to apply only to abortions past twenty weeks, which are already illegal.

One “pro-life” Republican lawmaker has spoken out against the bill, and unfortunately illustrates the muddy thinking that likely led to this amendment. State Senator Dan Claitor tried and failed to add another amendment that would have eliminated the prohibition entirely (replacing it with a mere requirement that women receive information about fetal abnormalities), arguing “Whether I agree with [abortions] or not, which I don’t, I believe it’s a constitutional question. Women have a right to choose.” And that’s not all he said...

Claitor usually votes for tougher abortion restrictions, but this time around, he says he could not do so in good conscience. He believes the bill to be in violation of the Constitutional right to abortion as outlined in the landmark 1973 US Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade.

“Why would you put me in a box to make a choice between supporting my oath to uphold the Constitution … and being pro-life?” Senator Claitor, an attorney, asked his fellow legislators. “The bill as written, in my view, is patently unconstitutional.”

It turns out “usually” may be overselling the senator a bit, who has a cumulative score with Louisiana Right to Life Federation of 92%, but scored just 67% in 2013 and 50% in 2009.

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Nevertheless, any conflict between the Constitution and the right to life exists solely in his own mind. First, as no pro-lifer should need explained to him, the Constitution and Roe v. Wade aren’t the same thing, so something that violates the latter is not “patently unconstitutional.” Roe made a mockery of law, history, and science that no honest scholar denies, while the Constitution and its intellectual forerunners clearly affirm a fetal right to life.

Second, there are legitimate arguments against passing laws to directly challenge Roe until the Supreme Court has enough pro-life Justices to overturn it, because doing so could result in a new ruling that’s even more pro-abortion. However, that is not what Louisiana’s law would have done.

Yes, Roe says that elective abortions must be allowed prior to viability. But SCOTUS has also upheld a wide variety of incremental pro-life laws, including parental notification, various regulations on the abortion procedure, limits on taxpayer funding of abortion, waiting periods, and informed consent. Further, Planned Parenthood v. Casey expressly affirms that states have a valid “interest in preserving unborn life.”

With that in mind, it’s quite a stretch to take prohibition of one motivation for abortion—an extreme motivation targeting the child’s needs rather than the mother’s interests, at that—as a serious impairment on the overall legal ability to get an elective abortion.

There is no reason any politician calling himself pro-life should be repeating the abortion lobby’s myths about the Constitution and the “right to choose.” Louisiana has been at the forefront in enacting a number of new pro-life laws recently, and it would be a shame for this bill, critically undermined by lawmakers who ought to know better, to break the trend.

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