Louisiana Lawmakers Pass Abortion ‘Reversal’ Bill Critics Say Is Predicated On Misinformation

Topline

Louisiana legislators passed a bill Tuesday that would require doctors to tell women having an abortion by medication that they can still change their minds after taking the first of the two pills required—an idea experts have heavily disputed as inaccurate and potentially dangerous—as abortion bans being enacted across the country and the looming threat of Roe v. Wade being overturned leads more people to seek out medical abortions.

Key Facts

In the most common form of medical abortion, women take mifepristone, which prevents the embryo from staying implanted, and then misoprostol two days later, which causes contractions to expel the embryo.

Under the Louisiana bill, doctors who distribute the pills will be required to provide a statement to the patient saying mifepristone “is not always effective in ending a pregnancy” and those who regret their decision after taking it should consult a medical provider “to determine if there are options available to assist you in continuing your pregnancy.”

The language in the bill, which passed the state Senate Tuesday in a 31-7 vote and will now go to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards to sign or veto, was toned down after initially claiming people could “avoid, cease or reverse” their abortion by not taking the second pill.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Beryl Amdee, said the bill “provide[s] information that could save the life of a child,” while GOP Sen. Beth Mizell, who led the bill in the Senate, noted the legislation is just asking people to consult their physicians and is “not saying don’t take the medicine.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says claims about abortion “reversal” are “not based on science and do not meet clinical standards,” and has criticized legislation that pushes the claims, saying such bills “represent dangerous political interference and compromise patient care and safety.”

Big Number

38.6%. That’s the percentage of abortions in the U.S. performed in 2018 that were medical as opposed to surgical, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chief Critic

“This bill is predicated on misinformation,” Democratic state Sen. Jay Luneau, said during the Louisiana Senate’s debate on the bill. “We need to make decisions not based on emotion, but based on medicine when we’re dealing with medical issues.”

Key Background

Louisiana is the latest in a series of GOP-led states to pass legislation requiring doctors to discuss abortion “reversal” despite the pushback from the medical community, following Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Utah, though the Associated Press notes many of those laws are tied up in litigation. Anti-abortion advocates have cited studies claiming medical abortion can be successfully reversed halfway, but other researchers have disputed those findings and said the studies were based on flawed methodology that artificially inflated the “success rate” of the reversals. A study conducted by researchers at University of California at Davis Health was terminated early for safety concerns after multiple women suffered severe bleeding that required emergency care. “I know that there’s legislators who want to pass a lot of laws about abortion. That’s fine. But do stuff that’s based on science. This is not based on science,” UC Davis obstetrics and gynecology professor Mitchell D. Creinin, who conducted the study, told the Salt Lake Tribune in 2019 about a law passed in Utah similar to the Louisiana legislation. “You’re potentially putting people at harm.”

What To Watch For

Medical abortion is becoming increasingly popular as state lawmakers nationwide take additional steps to curb access to abortion, and the Food and Drug Administration is now considering whether to make a pandemic-era decision permanent that allows the pills to be dispensed by mail instead of directly by a physician. That interest could continue to increase should the U.S. Supreme Court significantly weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade when it takes up a challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban next term, which could make access to abortion even more unequal if some states ban the practice while others allow it. Google Trends data shows that searches for terms related to medical abortion spiked by more than 5,000% in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court announcing they would take up the case.

Further Reading

Louisiana abortion pill ‘reversal’ bill gets final passage before heading to governor’s desk (Associateed Press)

Some lawmakers push ‘abortion reversal’ treatments. A study shows how dangerous they are. (Washington Post)

Controversial ‘Abortion Reversal’ Regimen Is Put To The Test (NPR)

New attention on abortion pill dispensing amid challenge to Roe v. Wade (Politico)

Searches For Self-Induced Abortions Surge After SCOTUS Accepts Mississippi’s Roe V. Wade Challenge (Forbes)

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