BATON ROUGE, LA., JULY 9 -- For the second and final time this year, the contentious abortion issue is back on the desk of Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (D), who wavered today on whether to sign or veto the latest abortion bill approved by the state legislature in a wild Sunday night session.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Roemer. "But is it a high enough step? Is it a constitutional step? Is it something I could sign? I'm not sure yet."

Roemer said he was uncertain whether the bill was germane under the standards of the Louisiana Constitution. The way legislators were able to rush it through Sunday, after failing to override a veto of an earlier abortion bill, was by attaching abortion amendments to a gutted bill whose original intent was to make it a misdemeanor to attack flag burners.

Roemer said the state attorney general called this morning to ask for time to examine the legal propriety of the legislature's action.

The measure, approved by both houses late Sunday, bans abortions except when the woman's life is endangered or in cases of incest and rape -- if the rape is reported within seven days. It imposes stiff fines and jail terms on doctors convicted of performing an illegal abortion. It would be the most restrictive state antiabortion law.

Friday Roemer vetoed legislation that did not contain the rape and incest provisions, saying that while he was against abortion, "the rights of women must be protected against such horrible crimes."

Roemer today said he needed time to study the new bill, which was drafted in such a rush that most senators and representatives voted on it without seeing it. "I got calls to the early morning hours from members of the legislature, all with different versions of what they had voted for," Roemer said. "They didn't know what was in the bill."

With the legislative session ending tonight, Roemer has three options: Sign, veto -- which probably would trigger a special session for an override attempt -- or let the abortion bill become law without action on his part. Most legislators and activists here said today they believe he will go along with the legislature this time. Roemer has 20 days to act.

Roemer said for months he would not sign a bill without rape and incest provisions. If he vetoes this bill, he will further erode his already difficult relationship with the legislature. His popularity among legislators declined perceptibly week by week during the session.

On the other hand, although the legislature is decisively antiabortion, voters in the state are about evenly split on the issue, according to a recent independent poll.

"This bill meets the requirements of Gov. Buddy Roemer," said Robert Winn, founding president of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation. "If he truly cares about saving unborn children, the only principled action the governor can take is to sign this bill into law."

But Kate Michelman, executive director of the National Abortion Rights Action League, urged Roemer "to refuse to turn back the constitutional clock for the women of his state." She called the legislation "the most outrageous and dangerous anti-choice bill in the nation."

If the bill becomes law, it will be challenged in court immediately by abortion-rights groups. Antiabortion forces have hoped all along that such a law would be challenged and lead to a Supreme Court decision reversing the abortion rights granted by the 1973 Roe. v. Wade decision.

The manner in which the measure was passed Sunday night incensed abortion-rights leaders because they felt they had scored a victory earlier in the night. Robin Rothrock of the Louisiana League of Women Voters said she was "outraged" by the last-minute maneuvering, which began seconds after the Senate failed for a final time to override Roemer's veto of the more restrictive abortion bill. Michelman called it "a nightmarish legislative process."

The decision by antiabortion supporters to compromise on the rape and incest provisions was made in a meeting Sunday night among Winn, Right to Life Federation leader Sharon Rudi and state Sen. John Hainkel (R).

"There's got to be something we can do! We can't let all this effort go down the drain," Rodi said.

"Let me look around and see if there's any vehicle we can use to get a bill through," Hainkel said.

He found Sen. John Saunders (D), who was responsible for handling the flag-burning bill in the Senate, a measure most senators were happy to see disposed of.

"We'll sacrifice {the flag-burning bill} to the cause," Saunders said.

Hainkel, Saunders and Winn drafted the language excepting rape and incest, and inserted it into the flag measure by making abortion -- instead of beating up flag burners -- a battery misdemeanor. They took the bill to antiabortion leaders and asked if they could live with it. "Think with your head instead of your heart," Hainkel said to Louisiana Right to Life leader Sharon Fontenot. She signed on.

Within minutes the bill sailed through the Senate and was rushed to the House, where several senators roamed the floor lobbying for it. It took only hours from the time Hainkel, Saunders and Winn hatched the plan.

"Amazing," said Roemer this morning. "To have them flip-flop as they did was was quite a shock."

Staff writer Maralee Schwartz contributed to this report from Washington.