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Abortion Bills On Controversial Reversal Meds, Reporting Requirements And Access For Minors Head To Final Vote

Mifeprex, a progesterone blocker used to end a pregnancy that is less than 10 weeks along.
Robin Marty
Creative Commons
Activists outside the Supreme Court in January voiced their support for abortion rights nationwide.

A bill that would require the promotion of an unproven practice to reverse a medication abortion advanced out of a state Senate committee on Wednesday. It’s one of three anti-abortion bills facing a final vote on the Senate floor in Baton Rouge in order to pass the legislature.

But the bill advanced out of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee with an amendment that would block it from taking immediate effect if it becomes law.

Under the original bill, HB 578, authored by Houma Republican Rep. Beryl Amedee, physicians and the health department would be forced to publicize the controversial method of “abortion reversal,” in which patients who’ve taken the first of two pills to trigger an abortion are given the hormone progesterone in an effort to undo the medication’s effects and increase the chance they keep the pregnancy.

The amendment makes the bill only enforceable if and when such abortion reversal treatment becomes approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has not investigated it, or the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which has deemed abortion reversal unproven and potentially dangerous.

“It essentially kills the bill,” noted Benjamin Clapper, the executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, which worked with Amedee on the proposed law. The bill could still be amended on the Senate floor to remove that provision, Clapper added.

Amedee has said the bill is about “consumer protection” and is necessary to inform abortion patients who might regret their decision.

Representatives from the Louisiana Department of Health have spoken against the bill in committee hearings for the House and the Senate. State health officer Dr. Joseph Kanter has said the department is concerned that abortion reversal is “not supported by expert consensus and it's not standard of practice.”

Two other bills supported by Louisiana Right to Life also advanced out of the committee. Both expand information collected on abortions by the state and increase its dissemination in ways critics argue could diminish patient confidentiality.

HB 423 would increase the information collected by the health department on each abortion — including the zip code for abortion patients, rather than their home municipality — and automatically forward abortion patient reports to the attorney general and the Department of Children and Family Services for minors under 13 years old.

The bill, authored by Rep. Julie Emerson, a Lafayette Republican, also includes a requirement for hospitals to report patients seeking care for complications from abortions.

Ellie Schilling, a lawyer and co-founder of the legal and lobbying reproductive rights group Lift Louisiana, which opposes the bill, said committee members agreed to work on the bill’s language to “ensure greater patient privacy and confidentiality.”

HB 357 would change the rules for how minors access abortions without parental consent, through a process called judicial bypass. Under current law, minors can petition a judge to approve their request for an abortion when their parent or guardian is unwilling or unable to do so.

The bill would bar minors from going through the process in the jurisdiction where there’s an abortion clinic, and instead require the petition be filed in a court where they live or in an adjacent parish. Authored by Republican Rep. Raymond Crews of Bossier, it would also require the publication of statistics that are currently confidential, including the number of minors accessing judicial bypass and the jurisdictions of the presiding judges.

The bill could make it harder for some minors to access abortions through the courts, and it could make it easier for people to identify minors having abortions and the judges who approve them, said Lift Louisiana’s executive director, Michelle Erenberg.

Rosemary Westwood is the public and reproductive health reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.

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