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    Louisiana Passes Surgical Castration Bill for Child Molesters

    The bill, if signed by the governor, would be the first to allow a judge to order surgical procedures for those who commit sex crimes against children.Judges in Louisiana could order people who are convicted of sex crimes against children to undergo surgical castration under a bill that state lawmakers passed overwhelmingly on Monday.While Louisiana and a few other states, including California, Texas and Florida, have long allowed chemical castration, the option to punish sex offenders via surgical castration — which is far more intrusive — appears to be the first in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures and prisoners’ advocacy groups.The bill now awaits the signature of Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican who took office in January vowing a tough-on-crime approach. And while the bill easily passed the Republican-dominated Legislature, it was a Democrat from Baton Rouge, Senator Regina Barrow, who introduced the measure.“We are talking about babies who are being violated by somebody,” Ms. Barrow told lawmakers during an April committee meeting. “That is inexcusable.”The bill allows for the procedure to be ordered for either men or women.Some legislators expressed concerns about Louisiana’s record of wrongful convictions and the prospect of racial bias.“Who does this affect most?” Representative Edmond Jordan, a Baton Rouge Democrat who is Black, said during a legislative hearing. “I know it’s race neutral. I know we say it can apply to anybody, but we all know who it affects.” More

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    Republican governors gather to attack Biden’s climate agenda

    Republican governors gathered in the fossil-fuel rich state of Louisiana on Monday to rail against the Biden administration’s climate agenda and lay out plans to “unleash American energy”, alarming community advocates and climate experts.“President Biden has done nothing but attack American energy,” said the Louisiana governor Jeff Landry, who led the Wednesday press conference.Landry was joined by by Republican governors from Alaska, Georgia, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Virginia.Hours before the presser, the group sent a joint letter to Biden requesting pro fossil-fuel rules and regulations, including an “end [to] regulatory overreach that unnecessarily restricts domestic energy production”, speeding the approval of federal drilling permits, and ending the pause on new liquefied natural gas export licenses. The letter does not mention that US oil and gas production has soared under President Biden, reaching record levels in 2023.The meeting was held at the Chalmette oil refinery, which a September Environmental Protection Agency report found was out of compliance with federal benzene regulations. In 2020, fires at the facility caused releases of sulphur dioxide, sending foul odors across the region.The event was convened by the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, which, documents show, has accepted funding from the US’s largest fossil-fuel trade organization, the American Petroleum Institute.The group is the policy arm of the corporate-backed Republican Governors Association (RGA), the main campaign arm tasked with electing Republican executives across the country, which has taken funding from Chevron, Exxon, Koch Industries and other fossil-fuel companies, and also has financial links to Leonard Leo, a key figure behind the conservative effort to move the judiciary to the right.At the press conference, the governors said pro-fossil fuel policies would benefit ordinary Americans. Governor Mike Dunleavy of Alaska said: “What we’re talking about here is … developing an energy policy for the single mom with three kids.”And Louisiana’s Landry said that “if the federal government took its foot off of the neck of American energy, we could absolutely lower the costs of everyday goods” – suggesting boosting oil and gas would lower inflation.But experts say boosting extraction in the US would not depress gas prices because fuel prices are set globally.Fossil fuel expansion would also be a “death sentence” for frontline communities worst affected by toxic industrial pollution, said the environmental justice activist Sharon Lavigne.“He is not for human lives,” Lavigne, who founded the local grassroots organization Rise St James, said of Landry.Since taking office earlier this year, Landry has appointed oil, gas and coal executives to Louisiana’s environmental posts, while targeting the state’s climate taskforce for possible elimination as part of a broader reorganization plan. He has repeatedly claimed to be fighting for “energy independence” – a term he repeated on Monday. Yet the US remains net exporter of oil and gas, meaning the nation already produces more energy than it consumes.Jackson Voss, who works on climate policy for the Louisiana-based environmental group Alliance for Affordable Energy, also noted the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries contribute more to toxic air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions than any other industry in Louisiana. The state also brings in less than 10% of its revenue from oil and gas.“Oil and gas benefits a great deal from Louisiana, through subsidies, through deregulation, through its attorney general challenging national policy,” he said. “But in terms of the benefits of getting back to Louisiana? I’d say they’re fairly minimal.” More

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    Louisiana’s move to criminalize abortion pills is cruel and medically senseless | Moira Donegan

    This week, Louisiana moved to expand the criminalization of abortion further than any state has since before Roe v Wade was decided. On Thursday, the state legislature passed a bill that would reclassify mifepristone and misoprostol – the two drugs used in a majority of American abortions – as dangerous controlled substances.Under both state and federal classifications, the category of controlled substances includes those medications known to cause mind-altering effects and create the potential for addictions, such as sedatives and opioids; abortion medications carry none of this potential for physical dependence, habit-forming or abuse. The move from Louisiana lawmakers runs counter to both established medical opinion and federal law. Jeff Landry, the anti-choice Republican governor, is expected to sign the bill. When he does, possession of mifepristone or misoprostol in Louisiana will come to carry large fines and up to 10 years in prison.Louisiana already has a total abortion ban, with no rape or incest exceptions. But the Louisiana lawmakers are pursuing this new additional criminalization measure because while abortion bans are very good at generating suffering for women, they are not very good at actually preventing abortions. Data from the Guttmacher Institute suggests that the United States saw an 11% increase in abortions between 2020 and 2023 – a possible indication that pregnant people are still managing to obtain abortions in spite of post-Dobbs bans. As was the case in the pre-Roe era, women have continued to seek out ways to end their pregnancies, even in defiance of abortion ban laws.In the pre-Roe era, illegal abortions were often unsafe, and abortion bans caused a public health crisis: many hospitals had to open septic abortion wards, where women who had had incompetent or careless illegal abortions were treated for frequently life-threatening conditions. But the post-Dobbs reality is that advances in communications technology and medicine mean that illegal abortions need no longer be unsafe ones. Now, women living in states with abortion bans can access safe, effective abortion care in the comfort of their own homes, and often law enforcement and anti-choice zealots are none the wiser. Women can perform their own abortions, safely and effectively, without regard to the law’s opinion on whether they should be free to. They can do this because they can access the pills.The criminalization measure, then, is part of an expanding horizon of invasive, sadistic and burdensome state interventions meant to do the impossible: to stop women from trying to control their own lives. The Louisiana bill nominally will not apply to pregnant women – they’re exempted from criminal punishments for possession of the medications. But it will take square aims at the vital, heroic efforts of feminists, medical practitioners and mutual aid networks that have been distributing the pills in Louisiana: the people who have adhered to the principles of bodily autonomy and women’s self-determination even amid a hostile climate. These people’s courage and integrity is the greatest threat to the anti-choice regime, and so it is these people whom Louisiana’s new medical criminalization law will be used against first.But pro-abortion rights and women’s rights activists are not the only ones who will be hurt by the new law. For one thing, the criminalization of possession is likely to scare many Louisiana abortion seekers out of ordering the pills online, even if the bill itself technically excludes them from prosecution. These abortion seekers, dissuaded and threatened out of seeking the most reliable and safe method of self-managed abortion, may then turn to less safe options.But the new drug classification also has implications for a wide array of healthcare treatments. Mifepristone and misoprostol are not only used in elective abortions. They are also the standard of care for spontaneous miscarriages – the management of which has already become legally fraught for doctors in Louisiana, causing women to suffer needlessly and endanger their health. Misoprostol is used in labor, too, and in the treatment of some ulcers. The drugs’ needless, cruel and medically senseless reclassification as “controlled” substances will make these medical practices more difficult in a state that already has one of the worst rates of maternal mortality in the country. That’s part of why more than 200 Louisiana physicians signed a letter opposing the bill.The Republican legislators who have pushed the new criminalization do not pretend to actually believe that abortion drugs are habit-forming. Thomas Pressly, the state senator who introduced the bill, frankly said that his aim was to “control the rampant illegal distribution of abortion-inducing drugs”.But there is something to the notion that abortion access might be “habit-forming”. In the Roe era, after all, women began to conceive of themselves as full persons, able to exercise control over their own destinies – as adults, that is, with all the privileges and entitlements of citizenship. They formed a habit of independence, a habit of imagining themselves as people entitled to freedom, equality, self-determination and respect. It is these habits that the Republican party is trying to break them of.
    Moira Donegan is a Guardian US columnist More

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    Two Inmates Remain at Large in Louisiana Jail Escape

    Two of the escapees were back in jail after being found in a dumpster, while the others remained at large, officials said.Four men were able to escape from Tangipahoa Parish Jail in Louisiana this weekend because of an eight-inch gap and a lack of oversight at the facility, the authorities said. Two of the men were still at large as of Monday night, while the other two had been found hiding in a dumpster, the police said.Jimmy Travis, the chief of operations for the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s office, blamed structural issues and a lack of oversight by the jail staff in a news conference on Monday.The four men escaped after they evaded correction officers during recreation time in the yard and hid out until darkness, according to a Facebook statement from the Tangipahoa Parish sheriff, Daniel Edwards.The men escaped in pairs, Mr. Travis said. The first two — Avery Guidry, 19, and Travon Johnson, 21 — left the jail on Saturday by evading correctional officers and escaping through a narrow, eight-inch gap under a wall before scaling two fences after dark. On Sunday, two other inmates — Omarion Hookfin, 19, and Jamarcus Cyprian, 20 — copied that route for their escape.The authorities were not aware that the men had escaped until a family member of one of the escapees called them on Sunday, saying that the men had tried to seek refuge at a relative’s house, Mr. Travis said. He attributed the delayed realization to understaffing and a lack of oversight.“If proper head counts had been conducted we would have known about it immediately,” he said.The staffing issues at the jail over the weekend are not unique for the state, which has one of the most overcrowded prison systems in the country. In 2022, Louisiana corrections officials told lawmakers that state prisons and juvenile detention facilities were understaffed because of low wages and poor conditions.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Louisiana expected to classify abortion pills as controlled and dangerous substances

    Two abortion-inducing drugs could soon be reclassified as controlled and dangerous substances in Louisiana under a first-of-its-kind bill that received final legislative passage on Thursday and is expected to be signed into law by the governor.Supporters of the reclassification of mifepristone and misoprostol, commonly known as “abortion pills”, say it would protect expectant mothers from coerced abortions. Numerous doctors, meanwhile, have said it will make it harder for them to prescribe the medicines they use for other important reproductive healthcare needs, and could delay treatment.Louisiana currently has a near-total abortion ban in place, applying both to surgical and medical abortions. The GOP-dominated legislature’s push to reclassify mifepristone and misoprostol could possibly open the door for other Republican states with abortion bans that are seeking tighter restrictions on the drugs.Current Louisiana law already requires a prescription for both drugs and makes it a crime to use them to induce an abortion in most cases. The bill would make it harder to obtain the pills by placing them on the list of Schedule IV drugs under the state’s Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.The classification would require doctors to have a specific license to prescribe the drugs, which would be stored in certain facilities that in some cases could end up being located far from rural clinics. Knowingly possessing the drugs without a valid prescription would carry a punishment including hefty fines and jail time.Supporters say people would be prevented from unlawfully using the pills, though language in the bill appears to carve out protections for pregnant people who obtain the drug without a prescription for their own consumption.More than 200 doctors in the state signed a letter to lawmakers warning that it could produce a “barrier to physicians’ ease of prescribing appropriate treatment” and cause unnecessary fear and confusion among both patients and doctors. The physicians warn that any delay to obtaining the drugs could lead to worsening outcomes in a state that has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.In addition to inducing abortions, mifepristone and misoprostol have other common uses, such as treating miscarriages, inducing labor and stopping hemorrhaging.Mifepristone was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2000 after federal regulators deemed it safe and effective for ending early pregnancies. It’s used in combination with misoprostol, which the FDA has separately approved to treat stomach ulcers.The drugs are not classified as controlled substances by the federal government because regulators do not view them as carrying a significant risk of misuse. The federal Controlled Substances Act restricts the use and distribution of prescription medications such as opioids, amphetamines, sleeping aids and other drugs that carry the risk of addiction and overdose.Abortion opponents and conservative Republicans both inside and outside the state have applauded the Louisiana bill. Conversely, the move has been strongly criticized by Democrats, including the vice-president, Kamala Harris, who in a social media post described it as “absolutely unconscionable”.Meanwhile, Louisiana’s Democratic party chairman Randal Gaines released a statement on Wednesday in which he called the bill “yet another example of [House Republicans’] pursuit to take away reproductive freedoms for women in Louisiana.“Thanks to Donald Trump, who proudly claims credit for ripping away women’s freedoms, women in Louisiana live in constant fear of losing even more rights … [this] action is a harrowing preview of how much worse things could get under governor Landry and the extreme GOP leadership,” he added.The US supreme court heard arguments in March on behalf of doctors who oppose abortion and want to restrict access to mifepristone. The justices did not appear ready to limit access to the drug, however.The Louisiana legislation now heads to the desk of conservative Republican governor Jeff Landry. The governor, who was backed by former president Donald Trump during last year’s gubernatorial election, has indicated his support for the measure, remarking in a recent post on X: “You know you’re doing something right when @KamalaHarris criticizes you.”Landry’s office did not respond to an emailed request for comment.A recent survey found that thousands of women in states with abortion bans or restrictions are receiving abortion pills in the mail from states that have laws protecting prescribers. The survey did not specify how many of those cases were in Louisiana.Louisiana’s near-total abortion ban applies both to medical and surgical abortions. The only exceptions to the ban are when there is substantial risk of death or impairment to the pregnant person if they continue the pregnancy or in the case of “medically futile” pregnancies, when the fetus has a fatal abnormality.In 2022, a Louisiana woman carrying an unviable, skull-less fetus was forced to travel 1,400 miles to New York for an abortion after her local hospital denied her the procedure. “Basically … I [would have] to carry my baby to bury my baby,” the woman, Nancy David, said at the time.Currently, 14 states are enforcing bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with limited exceptions.According to a study released in March, in the six months following the overturn of Roe v Wade, approximately 26,000 more Americans used abortion pills to induce at-home abortions than would have done had the supreme court not overturned the federal law in 2022.In 2023, medication abortions involving mifepristone, as well as misoprostol, accounted for more than 60% of all abortions across the US healthcare system, marking a 53% increase since 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute.The medication abortion counts do not include self-managed medication abortions carried out outside healthcare systems or abortion medication mailed to people in states with total abortion bans. 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    Abortion Pills May Become Controlled Substances in Louisiana

    A bill that is expected to pass would impose prison time and thousands of dollars in fines on people possessing the pills without a prescription.Louisiana could become the first state to classify abortion pills as dangerous controlled substances, making possession of the pills without a prescription a crime subject to jail time and fines.A bill that would designate the abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol as Schedule IV drugs — a category of medicines with the potential for abuse or dependence — passed the state’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Tuesday by a vote of 63 to 29. Should the Senate follow suit, Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican and a vocal opponent of abortion, is likely to sign the legislation into law.The measure — which would put abortion pills in the same category as Xanax, Ambien and Valium — contradicts the way the federal government classifies mifepristone and misoprostol. The federal Food and Drug Administration does not consider abortion pills to be drugs with the potential for dependence or abuse, and decades of medical studies have found both to be overwhelmingly safe.Under the legislation, possession of mifepristone or misoprostol without a prescription in Louisiana could be punishable with thousands of dollars in fines and up to five years in jail. Pregnant women would be exempt from those penalties; most abortion bans and restrictions do not punish pregnant women because most voters oppose doing so.“These drugs are increasingly being shipped from outside our state and country to women and girls in our state,” Attorney General Liz Murrill, a Republican, said in a statement on social media. “This legislation does NOT prohibit these drugs from being prescribed and dispensed in Louisiana for legal and legitimate reasons.”Louisiana already bans most abortions, except when women’s lives or health are in danger or fetuses have some fatal conditions. As a result, abortion rights advocates and legal scholars said that in practice, the measure might not prevent many abortions among Louisiana women. Since the state imposed its strict abortion ban after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, many patients have traveled to states where abortion is legal or have obtained pills under shield laws from doctors or nurses in other states who prescribe and mail the medications to Louisiana. Such circumstances would not be affected by the new bill, experts say.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Louisiana must use House map with second mostly Black district, US supreme court rules

    The US supreme court on Wednesday ordered Louisiana to hold congressional elections in 2024 using a House map with a second mostly Black district, despite a lower-court ruling that called the map an illegal racial gerrymander.The order allows the use of a map that has majority Black populations in two of the state’s six congressional districts, potentially boosting Democrats’ chances of gaining control of the closely divided House of Representatives in the 2024 elections.The justices acted on emergency appeals filed by the state’s top Republican elected officials and Black voters who said they needed the high court’s intervention to avoid confusion as the elections approach. About a third of Louisiana is Black.Like much of the south, voting is racially polarized in Alabama so any majority-Black district is likely to favor Democrats. Republicans narrowly control the US House and are fighting for an advantage in every seat.It is the latest development in a long and twisted legal saga over Louisiana’s congressional districts.Louisiana lawmakers were forced to add a second majority-Black district last year after a federal judge said the map they drew violated the Voting Rights Act. The state approved a map, but then non-white voters challenged it in court, saying lawmakers relied too much on race when drawing it. Lower federal courts agreed the map should be struck down, and the state said it should not be required to use the map for this year’s elections.The supreme court’s order on Wednesday halts that argument and means the map with a second majority-Black district will be used for this year’s election. What happens after that is unclear.The supreme court has previously put court decisions handed down near elections on hold, invoking the need to give enough time to voters and elections officials to ensure orderly balloting. “When an election is close at hand, the rules of the road must be clear and settled,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote two years ago in a similar case from Alabama. The court has never set a firm deadline for how close is too close.The court’s three liberal justices, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson, all said they would not have granted the request to intervene. Only Jackson explained her reasoning.“There is little risk of voter confusion from a new map being imposed this far out from the November election,” she wrote in a brief dissent. “We have often denied stays of redistricting orders issued as close or closer to an election.”skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionJackson was objecting to what has come to be known as the Purcell principle – a novel idea adopted by the supreme court that they should not intervene in an election dispute when election day is near. The liberal justices and other critics have accused the court of using the principle to benefit Republicans.Louisiana has had two congressional maps blocked by federal courts in the past two years in a swirl of lawsuits that included a previous intervention by the supreme court. More

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    US judges reject new Louisiana voting map with second majority-Black district

    A new congressional map giving Louisiana a second majority-Black House district was rejected on Tuesday by a panel of three federal judges, fueling new uncertainty about district boundaries as the state prepares for fall congressional elections.The 2-1 ruling forbids the use of a map drawn up in January by the legislature after a different federal judge blocked a map from 2022. The earlier map maintained a single Black-majority district and five mostly white districts, in a state with a population that is about one-third Black.“We will of course be seeking supreme court review,” the state attorney general, Liz Murrill, said on social media. “The jurisprudence and litigation involving redistricting has made it impossible to not have federal judges drawing maps. It’s not right and they need to fix it.”The governor, Jeff Landry, and Murrill had backed the new map in a January legislative session after a different federal judge threw out a map with only one mostly Black district.The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, chaired by former attorney general Eric Holder, said backers of the new map will probably seek an emergency order from the supreme court to keep the new map in place while appeals are pursued.The US district judges David Joseph and Robert Summerhays, both of whom were nominated to the bench by former president Donald Trump, said the newest map violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment because “race was the predominate factor” driving its creation.Judge Carl Stewart dissented, saying the majority gave too little weight to the political motivations involved in drawing the map.“The panel majority is correct in noting that this is a mixed motive case,” Stewart wrote. “But to note this and then to subsequently make a conclusory determination as to racial predominance is hard to comprehend.”The ruling means continued uncertainty over what the November election map will look like. Another federal district judge, Shelly Dick of Baton Rouge, has ruled that the state is probably in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act because it divides Black voters not included in majority-Black district 2 among five other congressional districts.But Tuesday’s ruling from the divided federal panel noted that “outside of south-east Louisiana, the state’s Black population is dispersed”. The majority criticized the new mostly Black district, which stretched across the state from Shreveport in the north-west into south-east Louisiana, linking black populations from the Shreveport, Alexandria, Lafayette and Baton Rouge metro areas.The panel set a 6 May status conference. Meanwhile, the case before Dick in Baton Rouge is still alive, and state election officials say they need to know the district boundaries by 15 May. The sign-up period for the fall elections in Louisiana is in mid-July.The decision gives new hope to Representative Garret Graves, a white Republican incumbent whose district was seriously altered by the new map. And it raises questions for state senator Cleo Fields, a Democrat and former Congress member who had declared he would run in the new district.Representative Troy Carter, the only Democrat and only Black member of the state’s current congressional delegation, criticized the ruling.“This is just plain WRONG,” Carter posted on the social platform X on Tuesday evening. More