Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (D) said yesterday that he has decided not to sign the nation's strictest state antiabortion bill, but he may allow it to become law without his signature.
"I've gone from three options to two. I will either veto the bill or allow it to become law without my signature," Roemer said in a statement. He has until July 29 to decide whether to veto it.
Roemer, who vetoed an antiabortion bill last Friday that outlawed abortion in Louisiana except to protect the life of the woman, said that although the new bill has exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, he is not satisfied with the legislation's provisions.
"If, in fact, the bill honored my original request of adequate protection for life against rape and incest, then I would feel differently," he added.
Roemer originally had requested a provision allowing a woman 30 days to report a rape and later have an abortion. The bill provides only seven days to report rape.
He also said any legislation should take into account the woman's overall health. "At the very minimum, the mother's physical health has to be taken care of. Mental health of the mother is a legitimate point of discussion and has always been a concern to me," Roemer said.
"Governor Roemer has gone beyond his insisting only on rape and incest exceptions," said Leslie Gerwin, a lawyer with Planned Parenthood in Louisiana. "In effect, the legislators have substituted their judgment for that of the physician, and Governor Roemer appears unwilling to let them do that."
Roemer has said he objected to the way the new bill was passed. After failing to override the veto, the legislature hastily passed the new legislation Sunday night -- about 24 hours before it was scheduled to adjourn.
The measure sent to Roemer originally was a bill calling for a maximum $25 fine for people who assault flag burners. The state Senate stripped it of those provisions and amended it into an antiabortion bill, which calls for sentences of up to 10 years of "hard labor" in prison and fines of up to $100,000 for doctors who perform abortions.
Along with abortion-rights advocates and some lawmakers, Roemer has expressed doubts about whether the bill would survive a court challenge. Supporters of the measure hope it will provide a challenge to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized most abortions.