Shooting Blancos on the Louisiana Abortion Ban

June 21st, 2006

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Louisian Governor Kathleen Blanco is a Democrat in a very red state. And sometimes red state Democrats and blue state Republicans do things a little differently than others in their party or in their political movement. Often, such departures can be forgiven. Sometimes they cannot. Blanco’s decision to sign into law a ban on nearly all abortions – as she did last Friday – falls squarely into the latter category.

The new Louisiana law, which would ban nearly all abortions in the state and put doctors in prison for up to 10 years for performing abortions, kicks in only if Roe v. Wade were overruled or if the Constitution were amended to allow states to ban abortion. That’s the only real thing that distinguishes Blanco’s actions from that of her colleague Mike Rounds, the Republican Governor of South Dakota, who recently signed into law a ban that goes into effect immediately (Supreme Court rulings be damned). Not very good company for the otherwise fairly progressive Governor Blanco.

Governor Blanco’s signing of the abortion ban was bad for the people
of Louisiana, and that makes it deeply irresponsible. But if she did it
for political reasons, it is more than irresponsible – it is foolish.

More than 65% of Americans consistently support Roe v. Wade and oppose the idea of banning abortions. Most people are, as we have often noted, “abortion grays” They believe that abortion should be neither always legal nor always illegal. Governor Blanco’s move appealed to the very narrow band of abortion “polars” who believe it should be always illegal – that’s only about 16 percent of the overall population. (See our Issue Brief Who Is Winning the Abortion Grays?.)

Proponents of the ban no doubt argue that they want to reduce abortions, and Third Way firmly believes that progressives should be for reducing the number of abortions in America. But that is where we part ways with Governor Blanco. We believe that we MUST find ways to reduce abortions while protecting the fundamental right to have one. It is the right-wing that wants to reduce abortions by throwing women and doctors in jail. Well, at least it’s USUALLY the right wing.

Progressives can stay true to their ideals and connect with the majority of Americans, for whom abortion is morally complex but who do not want abortion banned. By moving the conversation to reducing abortions, progressives can then define conservatives as those who want to reduce abortions by banning abortion and putting women and doctors in prison. (See our Message Memo Winning the Abortion Grays.) Governor Blanco’s approach embraces the very attack that progressives can wage against conservatives.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, Louisiana has the 19th highest teenage pregnancy rate of any state and over half-a-million women are in need of contraceptive services and supplies. Governor Blanco’s task could not be clearer: to reduce the number of abortions in Louisiana through policies that help prevent unintended pregnancies from occurring in the first place. Instead, Governor Blanco has badly missed the mark – and the abortion grays.