Upperdate: My follow-up piece.
Update: Throughout the day, I’ve read comments suggesting that I am conflating Plan B, “the morning after pill,” with RU-486 or mifepristone, the abortifacient.
Plan B, which is typically taken between 24-72 hours after sexual intercourse, is actually just birth control on steroids, and, as such, it’s generally considered to be contraceptive medicine. Plan B prevents implantation, which means, by definition, it cannot result in an abortion.
The thing is, I actually do know what I’m talking about here, and while I’m appreciative that others have picked up on this story, it sure would have been nice to get a message from some of the folks in the national and state media who ran this story (without any real attribution, and, yes, I’m looking at y’all, Times-Picayune), because I probably could have walked them through this.
The Times-Picayune folks already know this, but the woman who wrote the piece for Jezebel may not: You see, the Louisiana Legislature’s Republican super-majority (and even some Democrats) alongside its Republican Governor, Bobby Jindal, they don’t care too much about science. These are the same folks who passed and then signed a law that allows public school science teachers the ability to tell children that the universe is only 6,000 years old and the fossil record is nothing more than a trick of Satan.
So while it’s noble that some have spent time today parsing the differences between contraceptives and abortifacients, the truth is, this law is intended to regulate both Plan B and RU 486 the same way.
How, if one is clearly a contraceptive and the other is an abortifacient? It’s simple, elegant, and obvious: Deny the science. It’s worked before in Louisiana with evolution, and it could easily work again when it comes to contraceptive medicine.
State Representative Katrina Jackson introduced this bill, but she didn’t write it. Considering her response earlier today on Twitter, it’s unclear she even read it. But it’s not difficult to figure out who actually wrote this legislation. In fact, they already sent out a press release. Quoting (bold mine):
Louisiana Right to Life and the Bioethics Defense Fund have worked with Representative Jackson to prepare the legislation. Text of the legislation can be found online at the Legislature’s website.
All of this is public knowledge; in fact, it was sent out in a press release. I don’t like to come across as judging the competence and diligence of my friends in the media, but they really fell asleep here. The Louisiana Right to Life Foundation is about what you’d expect. On their website, they don’t claim that Plan B is an abortifacient, but then again, they don’t say it isn’t either. The Bioethics Defense Fund, however, recently published a paper about this issue on its website.
But before I get into that, it’s worth mentioning: Representative Katrina Jackson is obviously closely aligned with these folks. In fact, today, only hours after this story originally published, a woman named Dorinda Bordlee began posting on Katrina Jackson’s Facebook account. Ms. Bordlee, at it turns out, is the Vice President of and Senior Legal Counsel for the Bioethics Defense Fund. It sure sounds like she had a major role in drafting this particular legislation:
She’s wrong about the database, of course. Information stored in a computer is a database, and quite clearly, the Department of Health and Hospitals would possess information on those who seek to have or have had an abortion in their database. Maybe it’s not pertinent information; maybe it is. Either way, it seems like an awful idea.
And as adamant as Ms. Bordlee may have seemed about Plan B, her own organization- the Bioethics Defense Fund- has published papers, on its own website, that claim Plan B is an abortifacient. In journalism, I believe the correct euphemism would be “a smoking gun.”
With the full support and blessing of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, State Representative Katrina Jackson (D- Monroe) recently filed HB 388, which she titles, “The Unsafe Abortion Protection Act.”
The truth is, however, that this bill has absolutely nothing to do with protecting against unsafe abortion. If anything, Representative Jackson’s bill, if signed into law, would actually increase the likelihood of unsafe abortions in Louisiana. Much like the recent law in Texas, a law known to many due to Wendy Davis’s epic, thirteen-hour long filibuster, Representative Jackson seeks to require that physicians who perform abortions have “hospital admitting privileges,” effectively banning most abortion clinics, exponentially driving up the costs while severely limiting access.
But Representative Jackson’s bill goes a step further than the bill that ultimately passed in Texas: It seeks a change in the statutory definition of “first trimester” from “six to fourteen weeks” to simply “up to fourteen weeks.” In so doing, Representative Jackson’s bill would require the State of Louisiana, through the Department of Health and Hospitals, to maintain a database of women who have used the so-called “morning after pill” and, potentially, any other hormone or medication prescribed or administered shortly after a woman has sexual intercourse. It would also mandate that Plan B, which is now an over-the-counter medication, could only be prescribed by a physician with admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles. Quoting from the bill (bold mine):
F. Any person not under the direction of a physician who knowingly performs or attempts to perform an abortion
without complying with the requirements ofusing chemicals or drugs in violation of this Section shall be subject to penalties pursuant to R.S. 40:1299.35.19. No penalty may be assessed against the woman upon whomwho undergoes the abortion is performed or attempted to performed.
C. If a physician prescribes, dispenses, administers, or provides any drug or chemical to a pregnant woman for the purpose of inducing an abortion as defined in R.S. 40:1299.35.1, the physician shall report the abortion to the Department of Health and Hospitals as provided in R.S. 40:1299.35.10.
(2) “First trimester” means the time period
from sixup to fourteen weeks after the first day of the last menstrual period.
To be clear, Louisiana law requires that the reports provided to the Department of Health and Hospitals remain confidential and that the names and addresses of patients be “obliterated” from the reports. But nonetheless, the reports still contain specific information, including patient ID numbers and other details that, if placed in the wrong hands, could be used for more than just statistical analysis.
I’ve been writing about Louisiana politics for eight years now, and I don’t think I’ve ever covered the issue of abortion, for many good reasons. First and most obviously, I’m a man and will never be able to truly understand or completely empathize with the burdens and the blessings of carrying a child in my body. Second, the issue of abortion, particularly in a state like Louisiana, is rarely discussed rationally or realistically. Put another way, the terms of the discussion are inherently unfair- the idea that you’re either pro-life or pro-choice, as if it’s impossible to be both.
I believe, as President Bill Clinton said in the 1990s, that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, but the only way to ensure that it’s safe and rare is to also ensure that it’s legal. There is absolutely no evidence, whatsoever, that existing law in Louisiana has undermined the safety of or led to an increase in abortions. No evidence. In fact, Louisiana’s abortion rates have been well below the national average for more than twenty years and continue to trend downward.
If you believe that, as a matter of public policy, our laws should ensure abortions are rare and safe, then Louisiana’s record over the last two decades should seem satisfactory.
If, on the other hand, you believe, as an article of your religious faith, that abortion is murder, then the only number that would seem satisfactory, I suppose, is zero. That may be an admirable aspiration, but it’s also blindingly and absurdly naive, which is no way to run a government.
So-called “pro-life” politicians like Governor Jindal and Representative Jackson believe that, somehow, they can ban abortion by shaming and intimidating women and preventing access to services. To them, this isn’t about an effective public policy as much as it’s about codifying their own religious beliefs in order to appease their political base.
We need to grow up.
Laws like the one proposed by Katrina Jackson only create the potentiality of increased “back alley” abortions; laws like hers only serve to further victimize women who have already been abused; laws like hers undermine, fundamentally, a woman’s access to health care and contraceptive services; laws like hers exponentially increase the chance that women and the fetuses they carry will be mutilated. Laws like hers, truth be told, do not affect the wealthy: They affect poor, rural, and uneducated women; they affect women who, often due to circumstances completely beyond their control, are vulnerable, women who cannot afford a trip to the emergency room or the shame of a personal survey about their sex lives and medical histories that is submitted to Governor Jindal’s Department of Health and Hospitals.
There’s one other reason I’ve been reluctant, in the past, to wade into this discussion: I’ve never understood people “of faith” who seem to care more about embryos than human beings. I suppose it’d be easier for me to understand if there was some consistency, but the most vehement so-called “pro-lifers” that I’ve encountered are folks who also support laws that allow ordinary citizens to carry semi-automatic weapons everywhere they go, even churches and schools, folks who think it’s totally cool to “stand their ground” and murder someone who they perceive to be threatening their property rights- even if it’s just a kid walking by after a trip to the neighborhood convenience store, folks who support the United States government murdering its prisoners by electrocution or lethal injection or even a firing squad.
So, when I read bills like Katrina Jackson’s HB 388 and hear of Governor Jindal’s support, I think: You can’t legitimately care for the unborn if you don’t also care for the living.
PS: This post has received some attention from the national blogosphere, which is always pretty awesome and is always appreciated (even when the big sites don’t link to me but, instead, to each other and even when Gawker, for the umpteenth time, refers to me as “one blogger.” I thought we were cool). Anyway, I need to point out, despite what the nice young lady at Jezebel said: I understand the differences between RU 486 and Plan B. Don’t worry about me. Worry, instead, about the author of this bill. Worry about the Louisiana legislature.
This disgusts me beyond all measure. The fact that this representative is supposed to be Democrat is absurd. She is doing nothing but catering to the right-wing GOP Tea Party Republicans and invading the private medical information of women in the state. Not only should she have her Democrat card terminated, but her card as a woman should be terminated as well. When are people going to get that abortion and the morning after pill (which is NOT an abortion btw) is a Constitutionally protected health procedure for women in this country. You do not get to determine what a woman does with her body – period! If you don’t want or believe in abortion then don’t have one – but you have no right whatsoever to dictate what another human being does with their body. Autonomy is a word that politicians need to learn in regards to a woman’s body.
Ummmmmm…Anyone here every heard of HIPAA? This is in clear violation of the federal privacy acts.
Genuinely shocking. Wow…
I wonder what they might be wanting to do with this database.
find sex lol
They do realize the morning after pill is not an abortion inducer right? Its purpose is to mainly stop an egg from implanting before it becomes a pregnancy…I took the morning after pill…And still got pregnant (keeping it but not the point). The facts they base themselves on are uneducated and frankly ridiculous…
Do you really expect them to let facts get in the way of ill-conceived (pun intended) scenarios?
It doesn’t say to register the women on a site. the law says it has to be reported to DHH just as some other procedures are as well.
The law actually says her name and info is NOT included..A patient ID number isn’t giving away personal info no more than it would for any other procedure.
I know there are some crazy pro-lifers out there, but this info is needed for DHH and the health and safety of patients. If they didn’t gather information, how would they know what services to offer? Or what methods of abortion are most dangerous? What about all the other things we can learn from this data: such as reason for abortion. If many of the women indicate “rape,” then we need to look more into that region to determine what’s happening so we can prevent future victims. Or it could be mandated that any woman who is raped must be offered the morning after pill so we can prevent the need for later abortions.
Again, the patient ID is not going to give away who the person is. Med records are supposed to be locked down anyway.
… this is the law that is mentioned about reporting. It’s a way of counting stats for med procedures. Not outing women
Please, provide us with a single example of how the Department of Health and Hospitals has used survey data on abortions to ensure greater, more effective care. You seem to have much more faith in the integrity of our state’s IT infrastructure than I do. After all, just last year, Superintendent John White was attempting to outsource the records of school children to a private corporation. And many believed the end-goal was to sell information on students to companies that could target them for specific educational products and services.
But more importantly, I already made it clear that the information did not include names and addresses of patients; I already cited the law.
I don’t buy your argument in favor of the need for a state-run database, regardless of the government’s assurance that it will remain private.
Louisiana is a small state made up of small towns. And in a small state of small towns, the politics can also be small, vindictive, and all-too-personal.
So then in your estimate, should abortions be completed without gathering data?
Well, there is no record of gun purchases either. After a background check, the FBI isn’t allowed to keep that information.
Databases are AWESOME. Some guy didnt like what i wrote on facebook and then posted my name and address he got off a Recall Walker Petition. So I looked him up and found his mugshot and posted it.
Want to know why Pro Lifers want you to assault them when they protest?
Because they will then have your name and address from the ticket. Now you got them showing up at your house. Whether you went to planned parenthood for an abortion or a pap smear.
I know this from experience
Katrina Jackson. It’s alright to prove that you work with people across the aisle, but you should at least read what they’ve added your name to, before you present it to the legislature and public. You would have realized what bullshit they got you into and pass off as yours. Shame on you honey, but you’re going to have to own this one. Remove your name and pull the bill, before it’s too late.
I want to see Jindal and Jackson try this with pistols instead of pills and see what happens.
I have lost all patience with “people of faith” on the matter of abortion. Their god is supposedly all-concerned with every potential human life, but once those lives are actually born into the world, their god wants the government to let the child die of hunger or exposure rather than learn dependency. This same god is a huge fan of guns, and doesn’t want government to protect children from assault rifles.
Well, fuck their god. I don’t think their god is a god at all. I think their god is an excuse, that what they are really doing is making their belief system the normative and default social value. I don’t think their holy books have anything valuable to say about a woman’s reproductive health decisions. I think they mean to insert their big government hands in places that they are not qualified to judge, much less govern, especially if they’re going to insert gods into the discussion. Their god supposedly designed the female human body to reject some 37-50% of all fertilized zygotes; that makes their god the world’s single largest abortion provider.
They should regulate their god a little better and stop trying to regulate everyone else’s reproduction.
Outstanding comment, sir. Courageous too, in a world where those of deep religious conviction are constantly murdering those who don’t share their saintly beliefs. Go figure!
Lamar, Thank you so much for this column and for stepping out on this issue. I’ve had two abortions. The medical term for a miscarriage is a spontaneous abortion. And when you are lying in a medical exam room on arguably one of the worst days of your life, there’s nothing more soothing and comforting than the climate of hatred and shame that has been built up around that one word. When the doctor walked in the room and threw the medical term at me (not my doctor, this stuff always happens when your doctor isn’t on call), I was perfectly fine up until that moment. We’ve created a culture of shame and disgust around what is an actually pretty common medical occurrence. Fast forward to 10 weeks of being tested twice a week because my HCG level wouldn’t return to normal and my doctor (no longer) arguing that she couldn’t do a D&C because she didn’t believe that they could even do that in Louisiana.
We’ve created a culture of torturing women. It is this culture that kills women and if you don’t believe me, there’s a dead dentist in Ireland who would have lived had they done an elective abortion to speed along what the spontaneous one had failed to do. It was an anti-abortion culture that cost that woman her life.
And then we get to fast forward to a month into my grief of losing my second (and last) pregnancy (still getting those twice weekly blood test to remind me this nightmare ain’t over yet), and I’m driving on the Bonne Carre on my way home from my office in New Orleans. The large truck in front of me has a large mural of an aborted fetus painted with an anti-abortion message. I managed to make it to the LaPlace exit before I had to exit just in time to step out of my car and vomit in a delightful weed patch off the highway.
Do we drive around with giant murals of cancer-covered prostates? Do we carry around diseased hearts in protest? Then why on earth do we think it is okay to create this culture of disgust a shame over what is arguably a medical procedure.
Susan Nelson! I am so sorry you had to go through all that, for a miscarriage that happened, through no fault of your own!! I hope that not getting a D&C does not cause you irreparable damage to your internal organs!
Since it’s our own bodies, it’s our own choice, and also, NO ONE else’s business. It’s not our friends’, familys’, co-workers’, the governments’, and sure not any random strangers’ business or right to decide what condition your body ends up in, or how many people should live in your house. Therefore, the world doesn’t need to and shouldn’t know who takes birth control, the morning after pill, who has an abortion, who gave up a child for adoption, who’s been raped or abused, who had 19 kids, who actually has adopted a child someone had because they didn’t have any of the above and gave them up, which is where they think these thousands of potentially unborn children should have ended up, knowing how many hundreds of thousands of kids there already are on food stamps or in situations where the parents don’t have the money to pay for all the expenses required to raise a child (which by the way, how many pro-lifers do you know who have actually adopted a child?? Most pro-lifers also want “their OWN child, instead of adopting”). There are thousands of kids going without already in our country because no one has the money, and they push us to support other countries’ growing rates of starving adults and children because of, yes, a lack of education and available birth control and STD preventatives.
Personally, my pets are my kids, and I will never give up the kids I have already to afford to have a new kid, and it always disgusts me when I hear people say you have to give up what you already have that’s living to have something else that’s not even living yet. (and no I’ve never been pregnant, but you shouldn’t have to live with a fear disgust of it either because of other people).I was there when they were born too, and had to bottle feed some of them, bring them to the doctors, give them their shots, feed them, make sure they have collars and identification on them, get them sterilized as well, clean up after them, wash their bedding, play with them, and love them. The only thing that’s different is they don’t go to school (unless you bring them to obedience school lol) and at least then other people don’t have to pay part of their own income in taxes for their schooling, and they won’t be adding to future unemployment rates or be in the competing pool for jobs. There are millions of them that are homeless or lost out there too, not just up for adoption. And you know what’s funny, it’s ok to kill all animals after they’re alive instead of adopting them, but stopping something from happening before it’s born because it’s human it’s ‘inhumane’. We scream all animals are all over-populated on the planet and must be controlled and killed (and what remains spayed/neutered if they aren’t meant to be ‘bred’) but humans should all have more kids. After all, there’s only like 8 or more billion of us, more than there’s ever been of any species besides insects, and still growing.
It’s funny how it’s horribly cruel to not have a kid, but once it’s born they could care less and it’s ok if they’re given up or no one has the money to care for them, and it’s ok to attack and kill a woman who doesn’t want to make even more people on an already over-populated planet. Our country’s debt is already sky-high and we are running out of places to build even more homes and live. We don’t need more people looking for jobs that are dwindling, more houses to run, more cars to guzzle gas, more kids to pay for schooling with more tax money from every citizen, more insurance claims, and more people to feed. So, basically, only rich people who want more children should ever have sex, or else, we should deal with being forcibly pregnant and then hand over our children because we can’t care for them, or have other taxpayers’ money go to them, instead of just not having children? In our state, you can’t even say you don’t want kids and get sterilized if you are a woman. First, you get looked at with amazement or like you’re evil, like they’ve never heard of such a thing before. You have to be over 22 years old, have at least “2 and a half”, yes you read that right, 2 and a HALF kids (so basically they count being pregnant with a 3rd) before they will consider you as a candidate, and then you’re likely paying out of pocket because the insurance won’t want to cover it either. I know because I tried looking into getting sterilized myself and tried saving money for it. So if you don’t have $5,000 or more to not have a kid and can’t handle the surgery then you can’t sleep with someone you’re in a relationship with and you can’t be in love. That apparently costs too much money. But if condoms don’t work you must have a child you never planned to have, and regardless of the risks to your health, or the future child that’s not alive yet if you have a medical condition, you must put up with something growing and tearing up the insides of your body because someone else wants to see that it’s born. And honestly, what’s the difference if you take the morning after pill or not? When you get pregnant, only one of hundreds of millions of sperm even make it to the egg. The others dissolve, yes, dissolve. The only thing the morning after pill does it make sure that if one of the millions might pop into the egg that it doesn’t either. So even if you get pregnant and don’t take birth control every time you go through with a pregnancy and have a child millions just “died” then if that’s the definition, so that one child can be born, if you believe a sperm is living.
The government actually doesn’t care if any of us live or die or are happy. Quality of life isn’t in their list of considerations.They want future tax payers (where else we they get their bonuses from), and the more in debt we are, the easier we are to control, and the more power they have over us, the weaker we are, and the less educated we are, the easier we are to manipulate and confuse because we then don’t know if they’re wrong or right or what our own rights are, so people hesitate to defend themselves or argue. And, as long as we keep fighting among ourselves, no one will see that they are trying to manipulate us. It becomes us against each other instead of us against them. And why do we always attack the woman and it’s always their responsibility to get sterilized if they don’t want children? Why is it so horrible for a man to get sterilized? Men don’t usually want to get sterilized, and don’t like wearing condoms, but can freak out when a woman gets pregnant. It’s also funny though, that if a man wants to get sterilized, he can, but usually don’t because it takes away their ‘manliness’. I think it takes more balls to get sterilized than it does to have 5 kids with different mothers or fathers on welfare and paying child support. Also, it’s a simple procedure that doesn’t even take all of 15-20 minutes for the actual surgery on the guy and costs less, and is mostly external, whereas a woman requires more anesthesia and is out for almost an hour sometimes so they can slice open her abdomen and burn her tubes, or take out the organs for reproduction and then she’ll need hormone replacements the rest of her life if that happens. Our country makes me sick and so do people sometimes, and that’s why I’ll always love my pets more than most humans I know.
I’m for treating the living right and caring about them. I’m not for bringing more people into a world that’s already this screwed up, knowing how financially strapped most of us are now, and acting like we’re gods. I don’t think that unborn “future” kids should ever come before the living, period.
I find these religious groups to be biggest hypocrites.
If they really cared about unborn lives they would put bills through to teach proper sex education.
Instead they fight against measures that reduce the abirtion rate by 2/3rds in favour of bills that violate peoples rights.
I’m sorry, but no, just no. The bill clearly specifically references R.S. 40:1299.35.1, which defines abortion as, “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”. Plan B does not, and CAN NOT do this. So as messed up as this bill is it simply cannot do what you’re claiming it will do, no matter what the bill’s author’s intentions.
Unless, of course, they decide that Plan B is an abortifacient chemical, which is precisely what many in the right have been attempting to do. Read Hobby Lobby’s brief in its case against the ACA.
If we’re building a database of who uses the morning after pill, we should also be building a database of who buys condoms, because really it’s the same logic. Let’s throw safe sex entirely out the window why don’t we? Condoms get in the way of conception, the morning after pill stops conception from occurring as well, so does spermicide, etc. This plain and simple is a continued attack on women’s body rights, their reproductive rights, and their right to healthcare.
Today, I went to the beachfront with my children. I
found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and
screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her
ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally
off topic but I had to tell someone!