Louisiana is the latest state to join Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Missouri in passing new restrictive abortion laws.
But unlike other states, Louisiana’s law had support from Democrats: Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the so-called "heartbeat" bill, which makes the procedure illegal once a heartbeat is detected. He is the U.S.’s only anti-abortion Democratic governor.
A number of Democrats backed the bill in the state legislature, one of them being Rep. Katrina Jackson (@RepKJackson), who is African American.
“African American babies are being aborted at alarming numbers,” she tells Here & Now’s Robin Young. In an interview with NBC News, Jackson said she considers abortion to be “modern-day genocide.”
She says she supports the state’s move to outlaw abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected — with no exception for rape or incest — because abortion shouldn’t be “touted as the answer for African Americans who live in poverty situations.”
“I would say that legislatively, those who say they care about African American women in some ways have failed them, because they've put their focus on making sure abortion is legal instead of putting their focus on things that really matter that would have given her the education she needed regarding sex, access to health care and contraceptives. That's the way to attack this,” she says.
Jackson says she’s also using her “whole-life Democrat” stance to work on implementing policies to improve access to health care in impoverished areas, give families livable wages, kick start criminal justice reform to unite families, and advance sex education in Louisiana schools.
“Basically sometimes when you hear someone say they're pro-life, they're just saying choose life in the womb. For us [Democrats who favor abortion restrictions], it's totally different,” she says. “We don't look at our pro-life stance just by abortion bills. We look at the other measures as pro-life as well.”
On Louisiana’s bill to outlaw abortion after a heartbeat is detected
“I don’t see it as outlawing it for other women. I see it as fighting for the life of the child. And I tell women all the time, fighting for the life of the child is like fighting for them because someone chose to have them. If you were born after 1973, someone chose you and gave you a fighting chance. So we don't see it as restrictive ... we see it as fighting for life altogether. In Louisiana, Democrats consider themselves whole-life Democrats, which means we say we fight for life from the womb to the tomb. So we fight for everyone's life.”
On the fact there is no exception for rape or incest on the bill
“Well, it's a heartbeat bill. So the bill doesn't ban abortion altogether. It just deals with until you can hear a heartbeat. And so to the extent that a young lady finds out that she's pregnant prior to the recognition of a heartbeat, then abortion will still be — if this bill is in place — legal in our state. This bill in Louisiana had no chance of passing with any exceptions in it. Actually we had an amendment that was voted on the floor but it was voted down.”
On African Americans and abortions
“I have my own bill in the state of Louisiana and that's House bill 425 which is a constitutional amendment that's going to let the voters decide whether or not our own state constitution recognizes a right to abortion. The reason being is because since 1973, since the inception of [the] Roe vs. Wade opinion, 19 million black babies have been killed in the womb from abortion. That's more blacks being killed from abortion than any other sickness, illness, or violent crime or non-violent crime combined.
“I do not believe that abortion is an answer to poverty. One of the most egregious arguments that I hear daily is that a woman should have a choice based on whether or not she can take care of the child. I don't ever believe abortion should be down to the poverty. I believe that as African Americans, we should be fighting to make sure that we implement policies that give families livable wages [and] make sure women have equal pay.”
On efforts to better educate people to limit the number of pregnancies ending in abortion
“In the state of Louisiana, Gov. Edwards — who's a whole-life Democrat — myself and others fought for Medicaid expansion for three years when he was in the legislature. And finally ... when he was governor, in the first day he signed Medicaid expansion into law by executive order with all of our support. We also fight for access to health care in impoverished areas. We've done a number of things regarding criminal justice reform to unite mothers and fathers with their children. We have a joint effort on sex education. I passed Erin’s Law in this state. Erin’s Law is the law that says that in our schools at a certain age, we have to teach what inappropriate touching is and also teach that schools are a safe haven.”
On whether she’s worried that women will go back to the days of back-alley abortions
“Honestly, I think it’s going to make women more responsible. Sometimes I find that when there are options out there, and look even more children we dealt with this, but depending on how strict your parent was or how much you thought you could get away with, you got away with it. One thing that's out on the market that was not on the market during those times as back alley abortions was the morning after pill. So let's say you get up and you know you made a mistake and you weren't on birth control and you didn't use contraceptives or condom, the morning after pill is purchased over the counter.
“An abortion pill is something I don't agree with. The morning after pill stops you from ovulating and stops you from actually being fertilized. It’s contraception. So what I'm saying is today there are so many other forms of contraception, all the way down to after you make a decision that will result in unwanted pregnancy.”
On whether she’s concerned about voter support
“The governor and myself when we ran, both of us were very clear that we were pro-life, whole-life Democrats. We never hid it. No one had to ask us. When I campaigned, I was very clear that I was a whole-life, pro-life Democrat. But I was also very clear on this that I was a Christian and that I was going to allow my Christian values to guide me because I wanted them to know that. So if they didn't want to elect me, they wouldn't [have] elected me.”
This article was originally published on June 10, 2019.
This segment aired on June 10, 2019.