BATON ROUGE, LA (BP) - Louisiana’s new constitutional amendment restricting abortion is incredibly close to Louisiana Baptist Executive Director Steve Horn’s heart. His adopted 10-year-old son Dru was born after the birth mother sought help at a pro-life pregnancy center. “It’s hard to get my head wrapped around what could have been,” Horn said Wednesday after the passage of Louisiana Amendment 1.
The amendment declared no state constitutional right to abortion nor abortion funding. It was the only such amendment approved in any state Tuesday, Nov. 3. A similar measure failed in Colorado, where the state asked voters to limit abortions to fetuses no older than 22 weeks.
Horn said Louisiana Southern Baptists advocated for the constitutional amendment, which passed with 68% of the vote, the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office reported Wednesday, Nov. 4. “It doesn’t necessarily change anything obviously because of Roe v. Wade. But some people say this is the final piece in the state of Louisiana of the legislative puzzle, should Roe v. Wade be overturned. There will be explicitly in the state constitution that there is no right to abortion,” Horn said. “Sometimes we like to say ‘if and when’ Roe v. Wade is overturned, it is an important symbolic vote that the people of Louisiana have spoken.”
The bipartisan initiative was authored by a Democratic state senator and supported by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. “We’ve been recognized by various groups to be the most pro-life state in the United States,” Horn said. “I think this puts an exclamation point on that, and even some hard data.”
In Colorado, voters rejected 59.17% of the vote Proposition 115 that would have limited abortions to fetuses 22 weeks or younger, other than to save the life of the mother. Colorado remains among seven states that do not restrict abortion after a certain point in a pregnancy, Ballotpedia reported. Those states include Alaska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, D.C.
Louisiana’s abortion measure was among many measures on ballots in 32 states, including Stand Your Ground gun laws for churches in two Alabama counties. Various measures regarding racial sensitivity received voter approval. Voters reinforced Stand Your Ground gun laws for churches in Alabama’s Franklin and Lauderdale counties with constitutional amendments. Alabama Amendment 5 for Franklin County passed with 71.7% of the vote. In comparison, Alabama Amendment 6 for Lauderdale County passed with 72.6% of the vote, according to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. As constitutional amendments, the countywide measures required statewide voter approval.
While the churches are covered under the state’s existing Stand Your Ground law, Franklin Baptist Association Associational Missionary Larry Dover described the amendments as helpful. “This was just a way to, more than anything, give assurance to churches. In the event something happened, and there had to be some force used, then you were somewhat protected by the law if there was physical harm that was about to take place,” Dover said. “Many of our churches, not just Baptist churches, but so many of our local churches are a good way from law enforcement on any particular Sunday. And if something happened, even if you could get to a phone and call for help, it might be 15, 20 minutes before some help could get there.”
Of the 35 churches in the association, about 25 are in rural areas with only one deputy on patrol for the entire county at night. The association’s most recent church security training, held in the fall of 2019, drew perhaps 50 people from 20 churches, Dover estimated. Alabama State Representative Jamie Kiel, a Southern Baptist whom Dover said is a member of Tharptown Baptist Church in Russellville, Alabama, sponsored the Franklin County amendment.