Abortion in Louisiana – An Explanation of the Law Changes

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and removed the right of a pregnant woman to have an abortion in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The overturning of the landmark case does not create a federal criminal law prohibiting abortion.  It just removes the U.S. constitutional right to an abortion. That constitutional right is what prevented individual states from enacting laws that prohibit abortion. However, now that has changed. Now, the States will determine if they will criminalize abortion.

Louisiana has already had an abortion statute in place. It has always been illegal to perform an abortion in Louisiana without a medical license. That was the extent of the criminalization. The statute even stated that “Any act taken or omission by a pregnant woman with regard to her own unborn child” is not considered abortion.  Therefore, abortion was legal, as long as the person performing the abortion or prescribing the abortion pill was a licensed doctor.

This law automatically changed today due to the “trigger law” by the Louisiana legislature under La. R.S. 40:1061.

Let’s examine the previous statute:

Criminal Abortion Under La. R.S. 14:32.9

What is a Criminal Abortion?

This statute was last updated in 2012. It is actually a decent law since all it does is prohibit unlicensed people from performing abortions. This makes sense because we all want only licensed doctors treating people.

Criminal abortion is an abortion performed, with or without the consent of the pregnant woman or her legal guardian, that results in the death of an unborn child when the abortion is performed by any individual who is not a physician licensed by the state of Louisiana.

Abortion Defined

“Abortion” means the act of using or prescribing any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance, device, or means with the intent to terminate the clinically diagnosable pregnancy of a woman with knowledge that the termination by those means will, with reasonable likelihood, cause the death of the unborn child. Such use, prescription, or means is not an abortion if done with the intent to:

(a)  Save the life or preserve the health of an unborn child.

(b)  Remove a dead unborn child or induce delivery of the uterine contents in case of a positive diagnosis, certified in writing in the woman’s medical record along with the results of an obstetric ultrasound test, that the pregnancy has ended or is in the unavoidable and untreatable process of ending due to spontaneous miscarriage, also known in medical terminology as spontaneous abortion, missed abortion, inevitable abortion, incomplete abortion, or septic abortion.

(c)  Remove an ectopic pregnancy.

Penalties for Abortion in Louisiana

Abortion if a felony offense. If someone without a valid medical license in Louisiana is convicted of performing an abortion, he/she is looking at a sentencing range of not less than 1 nor more than 5 years at hard labor, fined not less than $5000 nor more than $50,000, or both.

Not Considered Abortion

The legislature has detailed that none of the following shall be construed to create the crime of criminal abortion:

(1)  Any action taken when a physician or other licensed medical professional is acting in the course of administering lawful medical care and an unborn child dies.

(2)  Any act taken or omission by a pregnant woman with regard to her own unborn child.

The New Law Since Supreme Court Ruling

On June 17, 2022, the Governor of Louisiana signed a new bill in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs. It has now made abortion illegal to perform in Louisiana, with some minor exceptions for medical emergencies.