Tale of Two States: Louisiana Banning ‘Telemed’ Abortions, While California Expands Abortion Access

One state is trying to curb safe abortion access, while the other seeks to expand it.

The bill's house passage comes three months after an Iowa judge blocked from going into effect a state medical board rule that would have banned the practice. Yanik Chauvin / Shutterstock

In an example of how much abortion access differs by state, Louisiana and California are taking very different paths when it comes to abortion policy. In Louisiana, lawmakers are trying to make it illegal to offer “telemed” abortions, while the California assembly is moving forward with legislation that would loosen abortion restrictions and add to the state’s pool of providers.

Louisiana’s SB 90 would require any medication abortion to be initiated in the physical presence of a “physician licensed to practice medicine in the state of Louisiana and [who has] completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology.” This in a state where only three cities have abortion clinics. The state senate approved the bill Thursday, with a 36-2 vote, according to the Associated Press. It now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, where it is likely to be signed into law.

The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Fred Mills (R-Breaux Bridge), a pharmacist, who told the Times Picayune that “his reasoning for pushing the legislation centers on his concern for a woman’s health as she terminates her pregnancy,” and that the process of a medication abortion can be “emotionally upsetting,” because of the process of first “starving” then “expelling” the pregnancy. Mills did not address how being in the physical presence of a doctor when ingesting medication would address that, as the actual “expelling” of the embryo or fetus would still happen when the patient was out of the presence of the physician.

The bill did receive a few amendments. One was to change the requirement that the pills be provided by a board-certified OB-GYN to a slightly less restrictive rule that physicians must have completed an obstetrics and gynecology residency.

By contrast, California lawmakers have continued the push to allow more medical professionals to perform early abortions, as previously reported by Rewire. AB 154 would allow board-certified midwives and nurse midwives to perform vacuum aspirations if they receive proper training and certification. Allowing additional trained professionals to provide this early abortion technique is expected to greatly expand access in the 52 percent of counties in the state that do not have an abortion provider. The bill is still awaiting a full vote in the assembly.

“Women need quality healthcare in their own communities and without excessive wait times,” Assembly person Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “This is particularly true with abortion services, which are cheaper and less complicated earlier in a pregnancy.”