Louisiana has three new abortion laws: Here’s what they do

Under one new law, women would be told an ‘abortion reversal’ might be possible

By: - July 6, 2021 6:30 am
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 has three new laws aimed at restricting and deterring abortion. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who opposes abortion, announced last week he signed the measures.

Here’s a rundown of what they do:

Medical professionals will be required to suggest ‘abortion reversal’ may be possible 

Act 483 — which will take effect Aug. 1 — will 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. 

When the legislation becomes law, the following message will 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.”

Rep. Beryl Amedee, R-Houma, sponsored the bill. Several medical groups have suggested such laws are misleading because there are no studies that have proven that the effect of an abortion-by-medication can be undone.

Similar laws passed in other states are already being challenged in court. Louisiana’s law could also be stopped from going into effect if someone files to have it blocked.

Edwards signed (and state lawmakers passed) this new law, despite a state panel of experts advising them not to do so in 2017.

Four years ago, the Louisiana Department of Health assembled a panel of seven medical professionals — pharmacists and doctors who teach at Louisiana universities — to examine whether the “reversal” of an abortion from medication was possible. The panel unanimously agreed that there was “insufficient evidence to suggest there is a sound method to reverse a medication-induced abortion.”

There has been just one study that has suggested that an abortion from medication could be undone. Medical professionals have expressed several concerns with that 2015 study. The number of pregnant women involved was too small — just seven people — to draw any broader conclusions, they said.

It was also of “poor quality” because it did not track the amount of the abortion medication the women involved originally injested — nor was there clear information about patient selection, according a report from the Louisiana panel. It didn’t have the “customary safeguards” that usually come along with such research, including oversight of an ethics board, according to the report

That study is the one that prompted Amedee to sponsor the legislation that eventually became this new Louisiana law.

Louisiana will restrict the courts that allow a minor to pursue an abortion

Act 482 by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, changes the courts that a minor is allowed to petition for an abortion without permission from her parents or guardian. It goes into effect August 1. 

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.

The new law also requires more granular information to be collected regarding the circumstances around abortions in Louisiana — particularly those performed on minors. Doctors will have to report the ZIP code of any person receiving an abortion under the new law.

In the case of abortions performed on minors, any district court which allowed for those abortions will have to be documented. There must also be a notation about whether the minor receiving the abortion is thought to be a victim of abuse and whether the minor has received any other counseling or services from the Louisiana Department of Health or the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. This information will be incorporated into an annual report on abortions performed in Louisiana.

Louisiana will collect more data on abortions

Act 425 will require the Louisiana Department of Health to collect a range of new data on women who receive abortions and on facilities that perform abortions. Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, sponsored the proposal which will go into effect Aug. 1.

Under the new law, the Department of Health must share reports on a quarterly basis about abortions performed on children under 13 with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services and Louisiana’s attorney general.

Hospitals will also be required to share more information about cases where the facilities end up treating women who had complications related to an abortion. These reports will not be publicly available — as they will be exempt from the public records law.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator and producer of the Louisiana Illuminator podcast. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press. Julie covered state government and politics for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune for six years. She’s also covered government and politics in Missouri, Virginia and Washington D.C. Julie is a proud D.C. native and Washington Capitals hockey fan. She and her partner, Jed, live in Baton Rouge. She has two stepchildren, Quinn and Steven.