At some point this week, the Louisiana House of Representatives will take up and undoubtedly pass a version of a “fetal heartbeat” bill, just another wave of the nonstop offensive we’ve seen from the fundamentalist right against abortion over the past few weeks. One thing that Louisiana has that none of those states have is a Democratic governor, but it doesn’t matter, because he’s already said he’s going to sign it.
Last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards, who’s up for re-election this year, confirmed his support for the bill. “That’s the way I was raised. That’s what my Catholic Christian faith requires,” Edwards said. “I know that for many in the national party, on the national scene, that’s not a good fit. But I will tell you, here in Louisiana, I speak and meet with Democrats who are pro-life every single day.”
The bill itself was introduced in the state Senate by a fellow Democrat, John Milkovich. Here is the first paragraph of Milkovich’s introduction to his constituents, per the Lousiana State Senate website:
Welcome and thank you for visiting my Louisiana State Senate webpage. I am humbled and honored to represent Senate District 38. My priorities this term include strengthening our Second Amendment protections; defending traditional marriage; fighting abortion; working to get rid of Common Core; protecting the right of citizens, including principals, teachers and coaches, to express their faith. We must also work to prevent an unfair share of the tax burden from being imposed upon small businesses, working families and senior citizens.
In summary, Milkovich is a right-wing Democrat who seemingly just hasn’t made it into the local board of elections to change his party registration yet.
Edwards and Milkovich can’t really be considered anything but outliers in the Democratic Party. The “middle ground,” so to speak, is occupied by Democrats who think that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare,” and at least not funded with federal dollars. This position is itself highly problematic; as Sarah Jones pointed out last week for New York, it lends credence to the conservative argument that abortion is something to be ashamed of.
Abortion, an extremely safe medical procedure that should be left between patient and doctor, should not even be up for debate among people in the ostensibly center/center-left main party in this country. Some Democrats, including DCCC chair Cheri Bustos, think that the party should be a “big tent,” which also helps explain why Bustos recently headlined a fundraiser for anti-choice Democrat Dan Lipinski of Illinois after pushing through new rules meant to protect incumbents against primary challengers.
If your first inclination is to say that Louisiana is the Deep South and the only way a Democrat can win there is by pandering to evangelicals, consider that after Alabama’s ban, Planned Parenthood released the results of a 2018 survey showing just 31 percent support in the state for restrictions on abortion mirroring those in the Alabama bill, which allows abortion only to save the life of the mother. In fact, there was less support in that poll than there was for abortion being legal in all cases or with “some restrictions.”
If the Democratic Party’s big tent includes people like Edwards, Milkovich, and Lipinski, it’s simply too big. The GOP is launching an all-out attack on Roe v. Wade across the states, and along with it reproductive healthcare for anyone who has a womb. There is no earthly reason why any Democrat—even in a state like Louisiana—should be lending them a helping hand to do it. Right-wing Democrats and their enablers can whine all day about imposing “litmus tests” and the like, but this kind of self-serving bullshit is just another way to obscure the fact that they don’t adhere to the professed principles of the Democratic Party.
One thing that the likes of Edwards and Milkovich would do well to remember is the fact that their margins of victory are usually so small that they need virulently pro-choice voters in order to win—just as much, if not more, than they need evangelicals. There will come a time when these people will get tired of this shit and withhold their votes, and when that time comes, the Democrats will deserve the consequences.