Louisiana may require medical staff to suggest ‘abortion reversal’ is possible

Proposed law would affect people who use medication to terminate a pregnancy

By: - June 8, 2021 1:15 pm
Louisiana State Capitol Building

The Louisiana Capitol Building, April 8, 2021. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator).

Louisiana lawmakers are close to approving a new law that would require medical professionals to tell a woman using medication to terminate a pregnancy that her pregnancy might still be viable if she only takes one of the two abortion pills she’s prescribed. There is no verified scientific evidence to support such an assertion. 

The Louisiana Senate voted 31-7, and the Louisiana House voted 71-27 for House Bill 578, sponsored by Rep. Beryl Amedee, R-Houma. It would require all abortion clinics, doctor’s offices and other all medical facilities to suggest to women seeking to terminate pregnancies via medication that they might be able to preserve their pregnancies if they’ve taken only one of the two prescribed pills. 

The legislation needs one more vote in the House before going to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk. Edwards typically supports anti-abortion measures, but hasn’t commented on this specific proposal.

If the bill becomes law, the following message would have to be attached to either the prescription for the abortion medication or the bag in which the medication comes:

“Research has indicated that the first pill provided, identified as mifepristone, is not always effective in ending a pregnancy. If after taking the first pill you regret your decision, please consult a physician or health care provider immediately to determine if there are options available to assist you in continuing your pregnancy.”

According to lawmakers, the research referred to in the message has not gone through the typical scientific review process to verify its results.

Senate Health and Welfare Committee chairman Fred Mills, R-Parks, said the recommended treatments for trying to halt an abortion after a patient has taken one pill of a two-pill regimen is “experimental — at best.”

Mills, a pharmacist, opposes abortion and voted for the legislation in the Senate, but nevertheless, expressed concern over the proposal. He urged Amedee to put the bill into a legislative conference committee, where its language could be negotiated further before lawmakers take a final vote on the proposal and send it to the governor.

Before the full Senate vote, Mills and other members of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee had tried to water down the legislation.

When it came up for a committee vote, they inserted language into the bill to make sure the message wasn’t attached to medication being given to a woman who was taking the pills because she was having a miscarriage — and not electing to end her pregnancy.

Mills and committee members also amended the bill so that the “abortion reversal” message would only to given to women after an abortion reversal procedure is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the American Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Neither has approved such a process.

But that language was stripped out of the bill on the Senate floor Monday after days of lobbying from Louisiana Right to Life, the state’s premiere anti-abortion organization. Ben Clapper, the organization’s executive director, said Amedee’s legislation is his top priority in the current legislative session. 

The legislation will have to be worked out by 6 p.m. on Thursday when lawmakers end their regular session for the year.

The House and Senate also seem poised to pass another bill that would require the state to collect more granular data about women receiving abortions.

House Bill 423, sponsored by Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, would mandate the Louisiana Department of Health track the parish and ZIP code of every women who gets an abortion In Louisiana. Currently, the parish and municipality are tracked. The information is compiled in a state report, but cannot contain the names and addresses of the women who sought abortions.

The bill also requires that the Office of Attorney General and the Department of Children and Family Services receive reports on each abortion performed on a child under the age of 13. 

It mandates that the Department of Health track follow-up medical care that occurs as a result of complications of abortions — and identify the facility in which an abortion that resulted in complications took place. That report would be confidential and not available to the public. 

That legislation needs at least one more vote in the Louisiana House before it goes to the governor’s desk. During preliminary votes, the House voted 82-14 and the Senate voted 37-1 for the legislation. In the Senate, only Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, opposed the bill.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.