Louisiana Enacts Law Making Mail Distribution of Abortion Pills a Crime

Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill into law on Tuesday that outlaws sending abortion pills by mail in the state.

The law makes “delivering, dispensing, distributing, or providing a pregnant woman with an abortion-inducing drug” a criminal act. Although federal guidance on the drugs provides for providing the drugs by “telemedicine,” the new Louisiana law requires any such drugs that are prescribed must be taken in person.

The law becomes effective on August 1 and provides for a fine of $1,000 and up to six months of imprisonment for each violation.

The law also provides that any person who is not a licensed provider but “knowingly performs” a medical abortion is subject to a fine of up to $50,000 and up to five years in prison.

In any case where a medical abortion through illegally mailed pills causes “death or serious bodily injury” of the pregnant woman, the person mailing the pills can be fined up to $75,000 and sentenced up to 10 years. If the injured pregnant person is a minor, the maximums go to $100,000 and 50 years.

The law states explicitly that it does not bar the use of contraceptive medicines or devices, including “Plan B” emergency contraception. It also cannot be the basis for punishing a pregnant person seeking an abortion.

Edwards also signed a bill on Tuesday that strengthens the Louisiana “trigger” abortion law. Upon becoming effective, it makes providing an abortion a felony carrying a fine of up to $100,000 and up to 10 years in the state penitentiary.

Trigger laws have been enacted in 13 U.S. states, and are described as such because they become effective automatically in the event the U.S. Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade.

Since the leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito in February which indicates the Supreme Court is poised to reverse Roe, several states have been active in preparing trigger laws and other regulations of abortion.

The draft opinion does not necessarily reflect how the court will rule, as any of the justices could change their minds on how to vote on the case. The case is styled Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and the final decision is expected in the next week.