Louisiana lawmakers pass bill suggesting ‘abortion reversal’ is possible

The governor would have to sign the legislation for it to become law.

Abortion pill
The abortion drug Mifepristone, also known as RU486, is pictured in an abortion clinic February 17, 2006 in Auckland, New Zealand.(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Louisiana lawmakers approved a bill 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.

Gov. John Bel Edwards still needs to sign House Bill 578 for it to become law. The governor is typically supportive of anti-abortion legislation, but he hasn’t commented on this specific proposal yet. Rep. Beryl Amedee, R-Houma, sponsored the bill. It would require all abortion clinics, doctors’ 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.

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.”

The research referred to in the message has not gone through the typical scientific review process to verify its results. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated such assertions about halting an abortion “are not based on science.”

Senate Health and Welfare Committee chairman Fred Mills, R-Parks, described the recommended treatments for trying to stop 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 had asked Amedee to put the bill into a legislative conference committee, where its language could be negotiated further. Amedee moved for a final vote on the bill on Thursday instead.

Before its final votes, 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 medication 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 was his top priority. 

The Legislature also sent a second bill related to abortion to the governor’s desk. House Bill 357, by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, would change the courts that a minor is allowed to petition for an abortion without permission from her parents or guardian.

Currently, a minor can ask permission to have an abortion from a judge in the jurisdiction where they live or the jurisdiction where the abortion would be performed. Louisiana’s abortion clinics are located in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport — parishes which are more Democratic than other parts of the state. Under Crews’ proposal, minors would have to ask a judge in their home parish or a parish next to their home parish. Edwards must sign this bill before it can become law. 

The Legislature is also still negotiating over one final abortion bill that would require the state to collect more granular data about women seeking 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 receives an abortion In Louisiana. Currently, the parish and municipality are tracked. The information is compiled in a report available to the public 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, under the current version of the legislation. 

That bill is currently in a legislative conference committee, where further negotiations are taking place. During preliminary votes, the House voted 82-14 and the Senate voted 37-1 for the proposal. In the Senate, only Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, opposed the bill.