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Governor Vetoes Anti-Vaccine Bills, Signs Anti-Abortion Bills Into Law

A vaccinator prepares a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. March 4, 2021.
Phoebe Jones
A vaccinator prepares a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. March 4, 2021.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has vetoed three bills aimed at limiting vaccination requirements in the state and signed into law the most controversial anti-abortion bill of the legislative session.

The bills contribute “to the false narrative that the COVID-19 vaccines are anything other than safe and effective,” the governor’s office said in an announcement on Friday.

One anti-vaccine bill would have barred public agencies and schools from mandating vaccinations before the COVID-19 vaccines are fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The bill's original language would have gutted the state’s ability to mandate vaccines for new viruses. In vetoing the bill, Edwards’ office said it would have changed the state’s “approach to vaccine requirements for schools and educational facilities, which has been in place for decades without significant controversy.”

Another bill would have prevented vaccine status from being included on driver’s licenses — a move that would have impeded efforts to create uniform documentation proving someone has been vaccinated, often dubbed vaccine passports.

Edwards vetoed a third bill that would have protected businesses from civil liability if they do not mandate vaccinations.

New Anti-Abortion Bills Impact Minors, Promote Controversial ‘Abortion Reversal’

In a major win for the state’s anti-abortion movement, the governor also signed into law two new anti-abortion bills. The most controversial creates a new requirement that Edwards’ own health department warned could be dangerous for women.

The law requires the health department and physicians to tell abortion patients that it may be possible to reverse a medication abortion. The law promotes the practice of “abortion reversal,” a treatment that involves giving women progesterone. It’s been promoted by anti-abortion physicians for years but is deemed unproven by the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians.

Representatives from the Louisiana Department of Health testified against the bill at both House and Senate committee hearings.

Benjamin Clapper, the executive director of Louisiana Right to Life — which helped draft the bill — said he was “excited” the bill will become law.

“Every woman receiving a chemical abortion will now know that she can talk to a doctor if she regrets her abortion to see if options are available to help her continue the pregnancy and save her baby,” Clapper said in a statement.

Abortion reversal has not been verified by randomized control trials, and one small study found that women hemorrhaged.

State health officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said the study provided “a real unavoidable signal that there's a safety concern.”

Another anti-abortion law signed by the governor is aimed at the state’s judicial bypass law.

Judicial bypass allows minors to access abortions via a judge’s approval, instead of through parental consent. Critics argue the bill will gut that ability by changing where a minor can petition a court for an abortion. Instead of requesting a judge’s approval in the parish where an abortion clinic is located, the request will have to be made in the minor’s home parish in most instances.

The governor had previously signed a law that increased the information the state collects on abortion complications.

Lift Louisiana, the state’s leading reproductive rights non-profit, opposed all three anti-abortion bills and called the new judicial bypass bill a “drastic” change.

“This bill will allow a parent or a small town, conservative judge to force a young person to carry their pregnancy to term and give birth against their will,” the organization said in a statement.

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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