On June 5, 2019, the Louisiana State Legislature passed a constitutional amendment stating that “nothing in this [Louisiana Constitution] shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” Voters will decide whether to approve or reject the constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020.
The constitutional amendment was approved after Senate Bill 184 (SB 184), which was designed to ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is present, except in certain medical emergencies. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed SB 184 on May 30, 2019. Gov. Edwards’ office has said that he also supports the constitutional amendment.
According to the Louisiana Pro-Life Amendment Coalition, which is campaigning in support of the ballot measure, the constitutional amendment would ensure that a state court cannot rule that the Louisiana Constitution provides a right to abortion. At least 10 state constitutions provide a right to abortion, according to state courts. The most recent state to join that list is Kansas, where the state Supreme Court ruled on April 26, 2019, that the Kansas Constitution provides a right to abortion. Should the U.S. Supreme Court rule that the U.S. Constitution does not provide a right to abortion, the Kansas Constitution would still provide a right to abortion, per the state Supreme Court’s ruling. In 2018, voters in Alabama and West Virginia approved ballot measures declaring that their state constitutions did not secure or protect a right to abortion. The Kansas State Legislature could refer a constitutional amendment to voters in 2020 to overrule the state court’s decision.
In Louisiana, the constitutional amendment declaring no state constitutional right to abortion received the support of legislative Republicans and divided legislative Democrats. Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat, introduced the constitutional amendment. In the House, Democrats voted 16-20 on the amendment. In the Senate, Democrats voted 8-5 on the amendment. Jackson asked for the constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot for 2020, rather than October 12, 2019. In Louisiana, state legislative and executive elections are held in odd-numbered years, such as 2019, while federal elections occur in even-numbered years.
The constitutional amendment is the first certified for the ballot in 2020 in Louisiana. As of June 5, the Louisiana State Legislature had passed four constitutional amendments during the 2019 legislative session for the election on October 12. The legislative session is expected to run through June 6, during which time additional amendments could be referred to the 2019 ballot. The legislature will meet again in 2020, when more measures can be added to the 2020 ballot alongside the abortion amendment.