LOUISIANA Gov. Buddy Roemer has had a tough summer. Legislators in that state have sent him a series of bills that seem to have been put together by the most stubborn reactionaries in the country. One would have required warning labels on recordings that deal with potentially offensive material and prohibited their sale to anyone under 17. Another was the most extreme antiabortion law enacted anywhere in the United States since Roe v. Wade. In spite of overwhelming support for these two measures in the legislature, the governor has vetoed both as infringements on constitutional rights.
The labeling bill, with its mandatory provisions and criminal penalties for record store owners, was opposed not only by the music industry but by national groups such as Tipper Gore's Parents' Music Resource Center. Although these groups seek to protect children from violent and sexually explicit messages on some recordings, they have strongly opposed government intervention in favor of working with the industry to formulate an agreement on voluntary labeling. Gov. Roemer took this sensible view when he vetoed the bill.
The abortion bill flatly prohibited abortion except in cases involving rape, incest or the life of the mother, and even these exceptions were severely limited. In rape cases, for example, the victim would have had to report the crime and seek medical treatment within seven days. Prompt reporting was also required for incest. Doctors convicted of performing abortions would have been subject to fines of $100,000 and imprisonment for up to 10 years at hard labor. In the wake of the Supreme Court's Webster ruling, which modified Roe last summer, a number of states have considered legislation to restrict abortion by requiring parental consent, for example, or restricting access to public hospitals. The Louisiana proposal went far beyond those statutes and imposed what amounts to a blanket prohibition that even a conservative Supreme Court would probably have rejected.
This veto must have been particularly difficult for Gov. Roemer, as a similar decision was last April for Idaho's Gov. Cecil Andrus. Antiabortion forces in his state had counted on his support. His decision to turn down the proposal was right and courageous.