Louisiana Legislature passes bill to ban mail-order abortion drugs
A bill to ban Louisiana women from receiving the medicine needed for a drug-induced abortion by mail won final legislative passage Friday.
Senate Bill 388 by Slidell Republican Sen. Sharon Hewitt would make it illegal for companies to provide the two drugs — mifepristone and misoprostol — through the mail with criminal penalties as consequences.
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Hewitt has stressed criminal penalties won't apply to women who order or take the drugs, only to the companies that ship them. The bill doesn't outlaw emergency contraceptives such as what's known as the "morning after" pill.
Louisiana law already requires that the abortion drugs only be dispensed and taken in the physical presence of a doctor, but Hewitt said current law "isn't clear enough."
Hewitt and supporters said her bill is designed to protect pregnant women from "mail-order, do-it-yourself chemical abortions without oversight."
The drugs now account for 54% of abortions, according to the pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute.
"We're targeting manufacturers and distributors who are taking advantage of women," Hewitt has said, saying the bill will "close a loophole."
During a committee hearing, Angie Thomas with the anti-abortion rights organization Louisiana Right to Life testified that during her own research she was able to order and receive the two drugs through the mail within days after ordering them online without any consultation or questions from the provider.
Louisiana is considered one of most restrictive abortion-rights states in the country.
Opponents of Hewitt's bill said they believe her legislation adding more restrictions will make abortion less safe and expressed concerns about women becoming targets of prosecution for seeking and having an abortion.
New Orleans abortion-rights attorney Ellie Schilling said the bill "criminalizes medical care from out-of-state providers."
A nonsurgical medication abortion involves swallowing mifepristone, which causes an embryo to detach from the uterine wall. A second pill, misoprostol, is used two days later to cause contractions and push the embryo out of the uterus.
The drugs' use for abortions has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration since 2000.
Hewitt's bill now goes to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' desk and will become law Aug. 1 unless he vetoes the legislation.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1