LEGISLATORS in Boise and Baton Rouge have put their governors on the spot this year on the question of abortion restrictions. In March, Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus came under tremendous pressure to sign a bill that would have in effect outlawed abortion in Idaho. He vetoed it. Now Louisiana lawmakers have sent a similar bombshell to Gov. Buddy Roemer, who must decide within 20 days whether to veto, sign or let the bill become law without his signature.
The Louisiana law is even worse than the Idaho one. It would outlaw abortion except in cases of rape or incest reported promptly, or where necessary to save the life of the mother. Doctors performing abortions for any other reason would be subject to fines of $10,000 to $100,000 and one to 10 years in prison at hard labor. As originally passed, the Louisiana bill did not even contain an exemption for rape or incest, but that measure was vetoed by the governor, and his veto was sustained over the weekend. The amended version was passed in the final hours before adjournment Sunday and is now on the governor's desk.
Abortion opponents in Louisiana hope to present the Supreme Court with the most restrictive law in the nation as a test of the justices' fidelity to the underlying principle of Roe v. Wade. Certainly, a statute as sweeping as Louisiana's could not pass court muster unless Roe were repudiated. That is unlikely. The ACLU has announced its intention to test the statute if it becomes law.
Although Gov. Roemer describes himself as "a right-to-lifer" -- as did Gov. Andrus -- he sees the constitutional problems in approving the bill. He has raised procedural questions about the manner in which the bill was passed and substantive ones concerning requirements that victims of rape and incest must have reported the crime within seven days and received medical treatment. The attorney general of the state has voiced his objections. The governor is in a tough spot. Like Gov. Andrus, he comes up for reelection relatively soon, and he will have a lot of disappointed legislators on his hands if he exercises a veto. But if Gov. Roemer shows the same political courage as his colleague in Boise, he will reject this repressive and mean-spirited bill.