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A state Senate committee Tuesday advanced legislation that would give prosecutors the ability to go after online and mail-order distributors of abortion pills.

Senate Bill 388 would clarify criminal penalties for the distribution of abortion pills.

Sponsoring Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, noted that current law requires the physical presence of a physician when the two pills are dispensed and administered. Nevertheless, mail-order pills are sent to Louisiana patients with little information and no evaluation by a physician.

Senate Judiciary C Committee Chair Franklin Foil, a Baton Rouge lawyer, quickly pointed out that law points to the inducer of an abortion, which under SB388 would mean the mother buying abortion pills over the internet.

Hewitt said it was not her intention to target mothers and would make the necessary changes to the wording to ensure that. She wants to apply criminal penalties to the distributors.

The two pills that can terminate pregnancies are mifepristone, which causes an embryo to detach from the uterine wall, and is followed a day or two later with misoprostol that pushes the embryo out of the uterus.

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The abortion drugs are extremely easy to obtain online, testified Angie Thomas, of Louisiana Right to Life, recounting how she found, bought and had the pills delivered from California in a matter of days. “Without ultrasound and doctor evaluation, these pills can be harmful to the pregnant woman, potentially causing long-term bodily harm or even death. SB388 clarifies that the online and mail-order sale of abortion pills is unacceptable and dangerous to mothers and unborn children, ”Thomas said.

Seta H. Degann, with the Physicians for Reproductive Health, a physician led national advocacy organization, pointed out that the two drugs were approved by the US Food & Drug Administration 20 years ago and that the in-person participation of a doctor is unnecessary. “We are strongly opposed to this bill as it is not based on medicine or science but on political ideology and would result in disproportionate and harmful criminalization of people in need of medication abortion care,” Degann said.

Sen. Gary Carter, D-New Orleans, reflected on the irony of the House debating at that very minute one of a sheaf of bills calling COVID vaccinations a government affront to individual liberties said, “You see legislation that we’re trying to pass in Louisiana that we’re trying to ban or limit the government’s ability to regulate vaccines. Yet we’re trying to pass regulations that would allow the government to ban or limit a woman’s right to reproductive care. ”

“It’s beyond irony Sen. Carter, ”replied Melissa Flournoy, chair of the Coalition for Louisiana Progress. “We are at an epic level of hypocrisy.”

Carter voted against SB388. Sens. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton; Rick Ward III, R-Port Allen; and Body White, R-Central; voted to advance the legislation for consideration by the full Senate.

If approved in the upper chamber, SB388 heads across the Memorial Hall for debate in the Louisiana House.

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