Monday, June 4, 2018
The Advocate (June 3, 2018): Absent on an abortion-related issue in Louisiana? It's probably a Democratic legislator, by Tyler Bridges:
During the past three legislative sessions in the Louisiana legislature, seven Democrats missed more than half of the votes on abortion, an issue fraught with political peril for some Democrats in this state.
Two Democrats from New Orleans — state Rep. Neil Abramson and state Rep. Gary Carter Jr. — missed 15 of the 17 votes taken during the 2016, 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions. Both men said that other legislative business caused them to miss the votes. The other five who have missed at least half of the votes are state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans; state Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans; state Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport; state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe; and state Rep. Randal Gaines, D-LaPlace.
No Republicans missed more than half of the 17 votes, according to the group’s score card.
Five of the seven Democrats did not vote on the most controversial abortion bill during the 2018 legislative session, Senate Bill 181, which would ban abortions after 15 weeks. That bill passed the House 81-9 with 14 abstentions and the Senate 24-1 with 14 abstentions. Current Louisiana law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed the 15-week bill into law, but it will take effect only if a federal court upholds a similar Mississippi law under legal challenge by abortion rights groups that label it as "cruel" and "unconstitutional." Both measures would impose the strictest bans in the country.
Louisiana Democrats like Gov. Edwards, Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, and Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, hold anti-abortion views that put them at odds with the Democratic Party nationally and the party’s recent presidential candidates.
Some Democrats, however, don’t want to anger Democrats who support abortion rights, a key constituency, or conservative voters who do not support abortion, whose support may be necessary in some elections, said Bernie Pinsonat, a Baton Rouge pollster and political consultant. Pinsonat said he is not surprised that the legislators who have missed the abortion votes are Democrats.
Voting anti-choice is especially important for Republican candidates, Pinsonat said, noting that 18 to 22 percent of the electorate consists of single-issue, anti-abortion voters.
In a 2016 interview, Rep. Abramson declined to state his views on abortion. “That’s a broad question,” he said when asked whether he supported women having the right to an abortion. “I’m not going to get into the details of all of this,” he said when asked whether he opposed abortion except in the cases of limited exceptions, a common Republican position.
Rep. Carter said he has not intentionally missed abortion votes and said his position on the issue is clear: “I support women having the right to choose as well as to be able to make their own decisions about their health and their bodies,” he said. Had he been present for the vote, Carter said he would have voted against the 15-week abortion ban.