Gubernatorial Debate

(From left to right) Eddie Rispone, Gov. John Bel Edwards, and Rep. Ralph Abraham all speak during the Gubernatorial debate on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in the LSU Student Union Theater.

The candidates running for governor of Louisiana disagreed on almost every question asked, but they stood in solidarity with anti-abortion laws at the Gubernatorial debate Sept. 19.

I respect their stance on abortion, but I wholeheartedly denounce their belief that an abortion shouldn’t be given to women who conceived through rape.

This denouncement doesn’t stem from my beliefs as an intersectional feminist. Rather, their agreement on this issue is simply evil.

The candidates are Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and Republican businessman Eddie Rispone.

My views on certain questions the moderator asked contradicted each candidate’s answer at least once. However, within the three minutes all candidates condoned not excluding rape victims from anti-abortion laws, my respect completely dissipated for all three.

Gov. Edwards wasn’t silent about his stance on abortion. Earlier this year, he signed an abortion-ban law that does not have an exception for rape victims.

This strict law, named the “heartbeat” bill, mirrors abortion-ban laws legislators from other red states passed.

The “Heartbeat” bill hinders women from getting an abortion if an OB-GYN sonographer detects the heartbeat of a fetus. Legislators don’t take into consideration that most fetus’ hearts start beating at six weeks old. This is too early for women to consider they might be pregnant.

I wasn’t surprised by overly conservative Democrat Gov. Edwards’ answer because his law emboldened his stance. I hoped Abraham and Rispone would abandon their conservative views and sympathize with the countless women whose bodies are seen as meals, readily available to feast upon by men who crave dominance.

In these situations, the rapist receives pleasure and pride. The pregnant victim’s dignity and self-worth disappear. She must tend to her rapist’s trophy, the baby, or send it into the broken U.S. foster care system.

Many rape victims who live in red states are experiencing this. Each governor’s signature that passes this law is signing away the natural rights of victims who must carry their rapist’s baby for nine months, and be reminded legislators don’t think women’s rights matter in our state.

This debate caused me to fear for the futures of rape victims who are impregnated by a rapist. Should residents accept they will continue to have no control over their bodies for the next four years? Would the candidates reconsider if their daughter or niece has a similar, devastating fate?

The candidates’ endorsement to regressive anti-abortion laws implies they’re investing more in the future of a fetus than the mother. These children will learn their biological mother conceived them through rape. This won’t be the case for all of them. Some may never find out, but the mother will always know. When she sees or thinks about her child, her rapist comes to mind as well.

Allowing a rape victim to get an abortion not only means she doesn’t have to be physically reminded of her traumatic experience, but she also will be saving the rapist’s baby from most likely having a troubled life as a foster child.

There are 4,000 Louisiana children in the foster care system and 140 children currently waiting to be adopted, according to AdoptUSKids’ website.

Some adults who open their homes to foster children may not have sufficient income to thoroughly care for all children housed.

This causes some foster parents to place children back in the system, and they might bounce around from home to home until they are legal. Most non-foster 18-year-olds are able to support themselves because they still receive help from their guardians. Those who were once foster children don’t have that advantage.

Senate Bill 109 is supposed to extend the legal age from 18 for those in the foster care system. They must be full-time employees, be involved in job training or be in school to stay in the system. Exceptions will be made for individuals who are unable to work or attend school because of medical problems.

This proposed bill may improve the foster care system, but it will not fix it. It’s going to take excessive funds, time and intense dedication.

Louisiana women, whether for or against abortion, should be furious all candidates refuse to make an exception for victims who are raped.

Whoever becomes the next Louisiana governor must be challenged by residents to exclude rape victims from abortion-ban laws and give them the right to an abortion.

Jasmine Edmonson is a 21-year-old mass communication junior from Denham Springs, Louisiana.

*Editor's Note: A previous version of this column stated that fostering children is unpaid. This has since been corrected.

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