A bill to make it harder for women to obtain the drugs needed for a medical abortion during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and potentially criminalize providers and patients moved forward in the Louisiana Legislature on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 388 by Slidell Republican Senator Sharon Hewitt would make it illegal for companies to supply the two drugs – mifepristone and misoprostol – through the mail with criminal penalties as consequences.
He authorized Senate Judiciary Committee C on a 3-1 vote.
Louisiana law already requires that drugs be dispensed and taken only in the physical presence of a physician, but Hewitt said the current law “isn’t clear enough.”
Hewitt and his supporters said his bill is designed to protect pregnant women from “unsupervised mail-order and do-it-yourself chemical abortions.”
Hewitt insisted his bill was not intended to target pregnant women for criminalization and vowed to insert an amendment before it reaches the Senate floor to clarify that women are not should not be continued.
“We are targeting manufacturers and distributors who take advantage of women,” she said, saying the bill “closes a loophole.”
Angie Thomas of anti-abortion advocacy organization Louisiana Right to Life said that during her own research, she was able to order and receive both drugs in the mail within days of ordering them online. without any consultation or questions from the supplier.
Louisiana is considered one of the most restrictive states in the country when it comes to abortion rights.
Opponents of Hewitt’s bill said they believed his legislation adding more restrictions would make abortion less safe, and expressed concern that women would become targets of prosecution for seeking and aborting.
New Orleans abortion rights lawyer Ellie Schilling and “criminalizes medical care provided by out-of-state providers.”
A non-surgical medical abortion involves swallowing mifepristone, which causes an embryo to detach from the uterine wall. A second pill, misoprostol, is used two days later to induce contractions and push the embryo out of the uterus.
The use of abortion drugs has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration since 2000.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Louisiana Network. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1