Abortion is currently legal in all 50 states. However, Louisiana has enacted laws that restrict access to abortion—how late in their pregnancy someone can obtain an abortion (with certain exceptions), as well as other regulations that make getting an abortion more time-consuming and expensive for the patient. By the time this publication goes to print, the conservative-stacked Supreme Court will have heard challenges against a Mississippi law that bans almost all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. The Supreme Court recently denied the request to block enforcement of the extremely restrictive Texas “heartbeat bill,” S.B.8. What transpires next could have major implications for the future of Roe v. Wade and abortion rights in both Louisiana and the United States. It is important to remember, though, that abortion is still legal at this time and that resources are available to terminate a pregnancy, should you need them.
This guide was created to provide resources and break down the options for obtaining abortions and emergency contraception in Louisiana. It is not a substitute for advice or care provided by a licensed medical or health care professional.
If your contraceptive fails, you have unprotected sex, or are a survivor of sexual assault, emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy when used correctly. There are several different options, such as implementation of the copper intrauterine device (IUD) and the “morning after pill.” These methods do not end pregnancy but rather prevent it by ensuring fertilization does not occur.
How to Obtain Emergency Contraception (EC)
One of the most common and accessible methods of EC is Plan B, or the “morning after pill,” which is available over the counter at pharmacies. It is effective if taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, and costs about $42 to $60, according to Plan B NOLA.
People living in the New Orleans area can contact Plan B NOLA for free or by-donation EC. To get Plan B from Plan B NOLA, call or text 504-264-3656. Their hotline is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and they will deliver or arrange a pickup of Preventeza or AfterPill, which are generic versions of Plan B (levonorgestrel 1.5mg). If texting the hotline, give your name, neighborhood, how long it’s been since the unprotected sex, whether you need delivery or can pick up, and if you need one pill or two—if you weigh 165 pounds or more, two pills are recommended to ensure efficacy.
Plan B and its generic versions can also be picked up at local pharmacies without a prescription. However, Louisiana law does have a “Conscience Clause” law which allows pharmacists to refuse to dispense emergency contraception if it goes against their religious beliefs.
Getting a copper IUD (brand name Paragard) prevents pregnancy after unprotected sex if implanted within five days, and can prevent pregnancy for as long as it is implanted in the uterus, a maximum of 12 years. As of this writing, Louisiana Medicaid covers contraceptive medicines and devices, including IUDs.
A new emergency contraceptive medication in pill form, ella, is available with a prescription. It works up to five days after unprotected sex. However, it may not work on individuals who weigh over 195 pounds. While all forms of EC prevent pregnancy, no form of EC provides protection against HIV/AIDS and the transmission of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Getting an Abortion
If the window for EC has passed, know that abortion is safe and legal in Louisiana, and it is possible to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
It is very important to note that Louisiana has more rules concerning abortion than many other states, and abortions can only be performed up to 20 weeks of gestation (the time between conception and birth). It is imperative that if someone in Louisiana needs abortion care, they act as soon as possible to schedule an appointment with a clinic. There is a high demand for appointments, but only three clinics across the state: Women’s Health Care Center in New Orleans, the Delta Clinic of Baton Rouge, and Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport.
For those who are willing and able to travel outside of Louisiana, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, West Alabama Women’s Center, and Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast in Houston are all legitimate abortion providers within approximately five hours of New Orleans.
“Pregnancy crisis centers” are not licensed clinics, but often operate next to abortion clinics and provide misleading information meant to dissuade people from getting abortions. Though these centers often offer free counseling and ultrasounds, a patient seeking abortion would still need to receive another ultrasound and the state-mandated counseling at the abortion clinic itself, then wait the 24 hours before the abortion procedure. Any clinic in Louisiana other than the three mentioned above—Women’s Health Care Center in New Orleans, the Delta Clinic of Baton Rouge, and Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport—are NOT licensed abortion providers. Only those three provide both the state-mandated counseling and abortion.
A Note on State-Mandated Counseling
People seeking an abortion must go to two appointments at the abortion clinic: one to get an ultrasound and state-mandated counseling, and another to have the abortion. These appointments must be at least 24 hours apart. The counseling laws were “designed to create timing barriers for people seeking abortion,” says Michelle Erenberg, co-founder of the reproductive rights advocacy organization Lift Louisiana. “These laws work on the assumption that people seeking out abortion care haven’t made up their minds about it… We know from research that that’s not the case… [The state-mandated counseling laws] are fundamentally designed to sow doubts in the minds of people who have decided to terminate a pregnancy, to shame them, further stigmatize abortion, and to further provide misinformation,” says Erenberg.
Upon attending the mandatory counseling and ultrasound appointment, patients are given misleading information, such as literature suggesting that a fetus at 20 weeks gestation may feel pain. This is untrue, as the parts of the nervous system that process pain are not fully developed at 20 weeks. The state-required literature also suggests that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer. This is also untrue.
Medication (Self-Managed) Abortion
Before eleven weeks of pregnancy, it is possible to choose a medication abortion as opposed to a surgical abortion. This is also known as “self-managed abortion,” as the person seeking the abortion typically takes abortion medicine outside of a clinic or hospital setting. The “abortion pill” is actually a series of medications which end the pregnancy and cause the uterus to expel fetal tissue. Mifepristone blocks progesterone—a hormone needed to establish and maintain a pregnancy. Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract and push out its contents. This method is 93 to 98% effective. In rare cases, a surgical abortion or additional medication is needed to complete the procedure. You can receive a medication abortion at all three of the licensed abortion care providers in Louisiana, as well as the three other licensed abortion care providers in the Gulf South area.
Women’s Health Care Center in New Orleans charges $625: $150 for a consultation and $475 for the medication. Patients must complete mandatory counseling at the clinic where the medication is prescribed. The 24-hour waiting period still applies to the abortion pill. At Delta Clinic of Baton Rouge, the cost is $650: $150 for counseling and $500 for the medication. At Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, the cost is $650: $50 for the consultation and $600 for the medication.
By law in Louisiana, people seeking a medication abortion cannot use telemedicine or get the medication series over the counter or with a prescription from a doctor outside of these clinics. The only way to get the medication series prescribed in Louisiana is to make an appointment with one of the three licensed clinics. To get a prescription, the patient must make an appointment, attend the state-mandated counseling and ultrasound, and then return for their second appointment at least 24 hours later to get the medication. The first dose is taken in the clinic, while the second dose is taken 24 to 48 hours later at home. A follow-up appointment is needed to ensure that the medication has been successful.
Louisiana now has a law that mandates abortion pill providers must attach a warning to the medication saying that it may be possible to reverse the effects of the abortion pill. However, multiple groups of experts have suggested that this warning lacks scientific evidence, making it extremely misleading for patients to receive from their care providers.
Due to the limited availability of abortion care in many places in the U.S., there is a website, Aid Access (aidaccess.org), that allows patients to have abortion pills shipped to them. Aid Access skirts Louisiana’s clinical legal requirements by allowing those requesting the abortion pills to speak with a pharmacist outside of the U.S. who then writes a prescription. The pills are then shipped to the U.S. from a pharmacy in India. The site allows people to request the pills preemptively, in case you want to have the medication on hand if it is needed. According to the Aid Access site, shipping can take between two and four weeks—meaning that the patient would have to order before the six-week mark to ensure that it arrived before the 10 weeks gestation. The cost is about $115 and their website helps cover the cost if needed.
Under Louisiana law, medication abortion must be prescribed in the physical presence of a physician. The websites Plan C (plancpills.org) and Abortion On Our Own Terms (abortiononourownterms.org) provide more comprehensive information on the legal issues and potential risks surrounding using services such as Aid Access. The Repro Legal Helpline (reprolegalhelpline.org) can also answer questions about these services and provide legal assistance as needed.
Surgical abortions are common, very safe procedures. At Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, abortions are performed up to 16 1/2 weeks gestation. At the Women’s Health Care Center in New Orleans and Delta Clinic of Baton Rouge, surgical abortions are performed up to 19 weeks and six days gestation. Patients can expect to be at the clinics for a few hours and may need a driver if anesthetic is used.
The most common surgical procedure is called a vacuum aspiration or suction curettage abortion, which is performed up to 16 weeks gestation. In this kind of abortion, the cervix is dilated, then a small tube is inserted through the cervix into the uterus, and a suction device is used to remove pregnancy tissue from the uterus. A surgical instrument called a curette may also be used to remove any tissue left in the uterus.
A dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion is commonly performed in the second trimester. The cervix is dilated, and sometimes a local anesthetic is used. A suction device and surgical instruments are used to empty the uterus.
Important Info for Minors
For a minor (under 18 years of age) to obtain an abortion in Louisiana, they must have signed, written consent from a parent or legal guardian. The parent or legal guardian must be present at the clinic to sign their consent and must provide a birth certificate and ID to prove their identity, and the patient must also provide ID.
If a minor cannot obtain this consent, it is possible to get what is known as a judicial bypass. A judicial bypass means that a judge gives consent to the minor for the abortion, in place of the legal guardian or parent. Legally emancipated minors, and minors that are married, do not need parental consent. If the life of the minor is endangered by the pregnancy, parental consent is not needed for the procedure.
The Louisiana Judicial Bypass Project (LJBP) is an organization that provides free legal representation to minors navigating the judicial bypass process. Minors can fill out their online form (lajudicialbypass.wordpress.com), call or text their hotline (504-535-5277), or email the organization (firstname.lastname@example.org). An attorney will file a petition with the court in the client’s parish, and a judicial hearing will be set within four days of filing. A judge must find that the minor is free of coercion, understands the procedure, and is “mature”—responsible and able to decide for themself to get the abortion—to grant the bypass. The judge typically asks questions about the minor’s life, future plans, and responsibilities in the hearing. The judge may also grant the bypass for the abortion if they find that the minor is not “mature” but that having the abortion is in their best interest. If the judge does not grant the bypass for the abortion, the law gives the right for the minor to appeal the decision.
Laura Fine, who co-founded the LJBP says that most minors who can, do involve a parent. “Abortion is fairly expensive, there are a lot of hurdles that you have to jump through, and for someone who’s under 18 it can be an intimidating process. Our experience is that if minors have a relationship with a parent, and they know that they can safely tell the parent about the pregnancy and their desire to terminate, they do… But if a minor is in a situation [where] it would be unsafe to disclose to a parent, then they still have a constitutional right to abortion care. And that’s what this process provides… People who need access to judicial bypass deserve support and respect,” adds Fine. Once the bypass is granted, the minor can have the abortion.
Considerations for LGBTQIA+ People
It is important to mention that abortion access is not only an issue for cisgender heterosexual women. All people with the ability to become pregnant can have the risk of unintended pregnancy and benefit from access to abortion services. Framing abortion as an issue solely concerning cis women has marginalized and caused harm to LGBTQIA people and set back the abortion rights movement.
CrescentCare and Planned Parenthood provide LGBTQIA-centered care and are good options for pregnant LGBTQIA people to navigate abortion services and receive queer-centered followup and aftercare. Louisiana Trans Advocates has also compiled a list of LGBTQIA-friendly care providers, including those who specialize in primary care and sexual and reproductive health.
The process of obtaining an abortion can be expensive, ranging from about $650 to $2,500 or more (the earlier in the pregnancy an abortion is performed, the less it costs), and it is often not covered by insurance. There are also secondary costs such as childcare expenses, gas, lodging, or even plane tickets.
One local organization that assists patients with the cost of getting an abortion is the New Orleans Abortion Fund (NOAF). The fund does not require proof of income or excessive documentation to qualify for assistance: “There are already enough barriers to access,” says A.J. Haynes, board chair of NOAF.
If funds are available, they will be provided to assist the client, according to Haynes. Payments for the procedures themselves are sent directly to clinics, and sometimes NOAF will book lodging or flights for clients. For other expenses such as gas and childcare, funds are sent directly to clients.
According to Merritt R., NOAF’s director of client services, from July 2020 to June 2021 NOAF disbursed $544,431, which was used to assist 1,600 people who reached out to the organization. Along with providing funds, NOAF coordinates clinic escorts to safely walk patients to and from abortion clinics.
To request funds from the NOAF, you can call 844-44-ABORT (22678) and leave a message. Within 24 hours, someone will respond, and an access coordinator will work with the client to determine their needs. NOAF helps people across the Gulf South.
The National Abortion Federation can also assist with funds for abortion and practical support. The hotline can be reached at 1-800-772-9100. Both NOAF and abortion clinics can help connect clients with other sources of funding to cover the costs of their procedure.
Abortion Aftercare and Follow-up
Once a pregnancy has been aborted or terminated, several important aftercare steps can be taken to encourage a healthy recovery post-procedure. Bleeding and cramping is normal, and pads are recommended. It is normal to see blood clots in vaginal discharge, and some sources recommend refraining from penetrative sex and using tampons for a few weeks. After having an abortion, you can usually return to normal activity the next day, though you may want to refrain from strenuous activity and exercise for a few days. Symptoms of pregnancy such as nausea normally dissipate within three days, though breast tenderness may take longer. You can get pregnant right after an abortion, so it is important to resume using birth control (as applicable).
All three Louisiana abortion providers do provide free follow-up appointments after the abortion procedure.
Additional Resources and Support
Abortions are common procedures, and many people report feeling relief after an abortion. It is normal to feel nothing but relief, but some people also report mixed emotions. If someone is feeling grief or sadness, is concerned about stigma, or the pregnancy was the result of a traumatic event or anything in between, they may need additional support, which is also OK. Along with reaching out to trusted friends or family, here are some further resources that are available if needed.
Provides free space to process emotions post-abortion, for those who need it.
Free, peer-based, trauma-informed support for people having medication abortions at home. Available 7 days a week.
Free peer counseling over the phone to anyone at any point during or after pregnancy.
Compassionate religious and spiritual support for abortion and pregnancy options.
Abortion advocacy, education, and policy work in Louisiana.
Birthmark Doula Collective
Full spectrum doula services including postpartum support for birth, pregnancy loss, and abortion.
Photos: protesters gather for a women’s march for reproductive rights through the CBD and French Quarter on October 2 (by Julie Dermansky)