In A Flash

Louisiana Senate overwhelmingly votes for abortion pill restrictions

By: - April 25, 2022 8:08 pm

Demonstrators hold banners in an abortion rights rally outside of the Supreme Court as the justices hear oral arguments in the June Medical Services v. Russo case on March 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Louisiana abortion case was the first major abortion case to make it to the Supreme Court since Donald Trump was elected. Justices voted 5-4 to overturn Louisiana’s law. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

The Louisiana Senate overwhelmingly approved more restrictions on abortion pills in a 33-2 vote Monday (April 25).

Every Republican and eight out of 10 Democrats in the chamber supported the legislation carried by Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell. No senator spoke out against the restrictions on the Senate floor before the vote took place. 

Senate Bill 388 is part of a national anti-abortion push to prohibit medical staff from prescribing abortion pills online or over the phone and then sending the pills through the mail. The legislation requires a medical provider administering abortion pills to a person in Louisiana to do so during an in-person visit. It also prohibits anyone other than a doctor licensed to practice in Louisiana from prescribing the pills to a person in the state.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration believes those measures are unnecessary. In December, the agency approved the distribution of abortion medication without an in-person medical appointment. A range of medical professionals, not just doctors, can also write prescriptions for abortion medication in other states.

More than half of U.S. abortions last year occurred through pills, rather than surgery, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights. As the pills have surged in popularity, anti-abortion lawmakers have pivoted to focus on medication restrictions.

Hewitt added language to her bill Monday to clarify that women who received or took medication to induce an abortion – even if obtained via the mail or online – would not face criminal penalties for doing so. Her measure is aimed at outlawing the actions of medical professionals who provide abortion medication.

Hewitt’s bill also does not limit a person’s ability to leave Louisiana, acquire the abortion pills in another state, and take the medication upon returning to Louisiana.

In the measure, Hewitt also increases penalties for performing a “criminal abortion” – defined as one without consent from the pregnant person or their legal guardian – when the abortion results in serious injury or death of a pregnant person. Fines could range from $5,000 to $100,000, and prison time could span from five to 50 years upon conviction.

The two senators who voted against the bill – Cleo Fields of Baton Rouge and Gary Carter of New Orleans – are Black Democrats and men. The House will now take up the measure. 

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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.

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