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Louisiana Passes Three New Anti-abortion Bills Needing Only The Governor’s Signature To Become Law

New Orleans' last abortion clinic, Women's Health Care Center, pictured on Oct. 30, 2018.
Rosemary Westwood
New Orleans' last abortion clinic, Women's Health Care Center, pictured on Oct. 30, 2018.

State lawmakers passed three anti-abortion bills during the last week of the legislative session in Baton Rouge. All now await Gov. John Bel Edwards’s signature or veto.

The most controversial is HB 578, by Rep. Beryl Amedee, a Republican from Houma. It forces physicians and the state health department 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.

Amedee has said the bill is about “consumer protection” and is necessary to inform abortion patients who might regret their decision. It was drafted in conjunction with Louisiana Right to Life, the state’s leading anti-abortion organization.

Sen. Beth Mizell, a Republican, shepherded the bill through the Senate and removed an amendment that could have neutered the bill by requiring abortion reversal to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“We now encourage Governor John Bel Edwards to sign HB 578 into law and give women who regret their abortion a glimmer of hope to save their baby,” said Louisiana Right to Life executive director Benjamin Clapper.

In an usual step, representatives from the Louisiana Department of Health testified against the bill in both the House and Senate health committees. State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said abortion reversal is considered experimental, that it has not been scientifically proven to work and is even potentially dangerous.

The two other bills, both supported by Louisiana Right to Life, expand how the state collects and shares information on abortions. Critics argue both will diminish patient confidentiality in ways that could potentially identify women who have abortions.

HB 423 by Rep. Julie Emerson, a Lafayette Republican, 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.

It also requires hospitals to report cases of abortion complications to the health department — something advocates argue is necessary to understand the rate of complications for abortion.

HB 357 by Republican Rep. Raymond Crews of Bossier could limit access to abortion for minors. It changes the rules for how minors obtain 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.

It would also require the health department to publish statistics that are currently confidential, including the number of minors accessing judicial bypass and the jurisdictions of the presiding judges.

“It’s a dramatic restriction on abortion access for some of the most vulnerable minors in the state,” said Chris Kaiser, the advocacy director of the ACLU of Louisiana.

The governor has not indicated whether he’d veto the bills, but he has signed anti-abortion legislation in the past.

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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