BATON ROUGE, LA., JUNE 27 -- Gov. Charles E. "Buddy" Roemer (D), saying he had "agonized over it, prayed over it," reaffirmed his intention today to veto the nation's most restrictive abortion measure, which mandates hard labor for convicted abortion doctors and makes the procedure a crime except when the mother's life is endangered.
At a news conference on the day the bill received final legislative approval, Roemer said he would not sign it because it failed to allow exceptions for rape and incest.
"These are crimes of violence and degradation," he said. "If we cannot give some faith and hope to the victims of these crimes, then I don't think the bill should be signed by me."
Roemer said his decision to veto the bill was difficult because he considered himself "a pro-life official" who wanted his state to "take a constructive step to close the abortion window -- it's open too wide." He said he tried to persuade antiabortion forces in the legislature to compromise on the rape and incest provisions. "We came close," he said. "We failed."
Leaders on both sides of the issue are counting votes for a possible override of Roemer's veto, expected in the next 10 days. The Senate's 24 to 15 vote Tuesday night was two short of the two-thirds margin needed in that chamber for an override. The House final vote tonight was 80 to 23, accepting Senate changes by an apparently veto-proof margin.
"The 15 is solid, and we may have two more" in the Senate, said Leslie Gerwin, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood. Sandy McDade of the antiabortion group Eagle Forum, however, said she expected intense pressure from her forces would cause at least two senators to switch their votes.
Roemer said an override is possible. "There are deep feelings here. . . . I respect that." If the bill becomes law, Roemer said he would direct the state to defend it against court challenges.