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Louisiana lawmakers insist child rape victims must carry their pregnancy to term

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Louisiana lawmakers insist child rape victims must carry their pregnancy to term


Former President Donald Trump, now the presumptive Republican nominee, boasts that he “broke Roe v. Wade.” In the aftermath, according to Trump, “states are working very brilliantly” to impose various restrictions on abortion and creating “very beautiful harmony.”

Over the last few days, this process has played out in Louisiana. Lawmakers in the Pelican State voted to continue to require child rape victims to carry their pregnancy to term. 

After Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court, Louisiana, along with 13 other states, imposed a ban on abortion at all stages of pregnancy. The only exceptions to Louisiana’s ban are when an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother or in cases of “medically futile” pregnancy, when the fetus has a fatal abnormality. Doctors in the state “who perform illegal abortions can face up to 15 years in prison and steep fines of $10,000 to $200,000.”

In February, Louisana Representative Delisha Boyd (D) introduced legislation that proposed exceptions for rape and incest to Louisiana’s abortion ban. When it became clear that the proposal would fail, Boyd narrowed her bill to allow persons 16 years old and younger to have an abortion if they were the victim of rape or incest. 

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The legislation was grounded in Boyd’s personal experience. She was born after her mother was raped by a man when she was 15 years old. Boyd said that her mother suffered years of trauma before dying at 30. 

Neelima Sukhavasi, an obstetrician from Baton Rouge, urged the members of the Louisiana House Committee on Criminal Justice to approve Boyd’s bill. Sukhavasi said that since Louisiana imposed its abortion ban in 2022, “[s]he and her colleagues have delivered babies for pregnant teenagers, including mothers as young as 13.” She told the committee, “[o]ne of these teenagers delivered a baby while clutching a Teddy Bear — and that’s an image that once you see that, you can’t unsee it.” According to Sukhavasi, these girls “can experience health complications that affect them for the rest of their lives.”

Nevertheless, the committee rejected Boyd’s bill last week on a 7 to 4 vote. All seven Republicans on the committee voted against creating the exception for child rape victims. One legislator who voted against creating the exception, Representative Lauren Ventrella (R), said she believed “teenagers who had consensual sex might feign rape or incest in order to get access to abortion service.” Another legislator in opposition, Representative Dodie Horton (R), said rape should be punished, but she “cannot condone killing the innocent.” 

Louisiana politics has long been dominated by anti-abortion advocates. But, on this issue, the legislature is out of step with their constituents. A 2023 survey found that 77% of Louisiana voters supported an abortion exception for rape and incest. A survey this year by The Times-Picayune found a majority of Louisiana voters also support allowing abortion for any reason up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

Anti-abortion lawmakers in Louisiana are also pushing a bill that would classify abortion medication as Schedule IV drugs, the same treatment as opioids. If the bill becomes law, Louisiana would be the first state in the country to classify mifepristone and misoprostol as controlled dangerous substances.

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Under Senate Bill 276, anyone who possesses mifepristone or misoprostol – the two pills used in a medication abortion – without a valid prescription could face up to “five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.” The bill includes an exemption for pregnant women who use the drugs for their “own consumption.” But it still makes acquiring abortion drugs for future use – a practice known as advanced provision – effectively illegal. 

The proposed law also “appears to target people who might obtain abortion medications in order to distribute them to pregnant people,” WWNO New Orleans Public Radio notes. In Louisiana, distributing or manufacturing controlled substances is a punishable offense “with up to 10 years in prison and $15,000 in fines.” According to the bill’s author, State Senator Thomas Pressly (R), the aim is to take the pills “away from people who are stockpiling these drugs for whatever reason.” The bill, which was written in collaboration with Louisiana Right to Life, also seeks to “create a new crime of ‘coerced criminal abortion by means of fraud,’” Pressly said in a press release. More than 240 Louisiana doctors said the proposed classification is “not scientifically based” and wrote that it could result in “unjustified mistrust by patients and fear of the medication.”

Critics also warn that the new penalties could discourage health providers from prescribing mifepristone and misoprostol and make pharmacies reluctant to fill out those prescriptions. Abortion medication is currently the most popular method of ending a pregnancy. The drugs targeted by Pressly’s bill also have uses outside of abortions: mifepristone is used to treat Cushing’s syndrome, a hormonal disorder, and given for miscarriage treatment. Meanwhile, misoprostol is prescribed to treat ulcers and is sometimes used to help patients give birth. 

Louisiana’s limited exceptions for the life of the patient and “medically futile” pregnancies are both extremely narrow and poorly defined. But the state’s anti-abortion officials have promised to prosecute doctors for any perceived violations. A recent report by Physicians for Human Rights and other reproductive rights advocates concluded that Louisiana’s abortion ban violates “federal law meant to protect patient access to emergency care, disregard[s] evidence-based public health guidance, degrade[s] long-standing medical ethical standards, and, worst of all, den[ies] basic human rights to Louisianans seeking reproductive health care in their state.”

Specifically, “initial prenatal care in Louisiana is being pushed deeper into pregnancy, often beyond the first trimester when miscarriage is more common—purposely delayed to avoid the risk of miscarriage care being misconstrued as an abortion in violation of the bans.” As a result, pregnant women are “struggling to access time-sensitive, appropriate care for early pregnancy and miscarriages.”

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Louisiana is already “among the U.S. states with the lowest number of employed obstetricians and gynecologists (OB-GYNs) in the country with the majority of its parishes having less than two per 100,000 residents.” This shortage is unlikely to dissipate as obstetricians and gynecologists in the state put themselves at risk of prosecution for providing basic prenatal care. 

Louisiana’s House Committee on Criminal Justice also considered legislation last week to “insulate physicians and other health care providers from facing abortion-related charges if they were only trying to treat a pregnant person’s unavoidable miscarriage or troubled pregnancy.” At the hearing, Louisiana doctors testified that they were afraid of being thrown in jail for treating pregnant patients. The legislation was rejected by the committee



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Louisiana

Officer catches massive python in Louisiana

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Officer catches massive python in Louisiana


This is the moment a police officer captured a massive 12ft python in a Houma, Louisiana backyard on May 26. The aggressive snake is suspected to be someone’s former pet. It slithered in from a bayou behind the house and may have killed two of the homeowner’s geese.



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Mobile gaming continues to grow in Louisiana as April numbers show

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While overall gaming revenues were down in Louisiana last month, mobile gaming collections continue to grow, the Center Square reports. 

Mobile gaming, currently dominating the state’s sports wagering market, saw a nearly 73% increase in collections last month thanks to additional providers being approved by regulators. 

Some $1.8 billion in wagers have been written since the fiscal year began July 1, 2023—breaking down to nearly $170 million in net proceeds and $30.3 million in taxes. 

In April, $263 million of mobile wagers were written in Louisiana, generating $35.1 million in net proceeds and $5.27 million in taxes. 

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Meanwhile, sportsbook wagers, the riverboat casinos and the state’s lone land-based casino in New Orleans each saw decreases, which pulled the overall market down last month. 

Read the full story. 





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Recycling isn't easy. The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana is doing it anyway.

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Recycling isn't easy. The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana is doing it anyway.


Allie “Nokko” Johnson is a member of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, and they love teaching young tribal members about recycling. Johnson helps them make Christmas ornaments out of things that were going to be thrown away, or melts down small crayons to make bigger ones.

“In its own way, recycling is a form of decolonization for tribal members,” Johnson said. “We have to decolonize our present to make a better future for tomorrow.“

The Coushatta Reservation, in southern Louisiana, is small, made up of about 300 tribal members, and rural — the nearest Walmart is 40 minutes away. Recycling hasn’t been popular in the area, but as the risks from climate change have grown, so has the tribe’s interest. In 2014, the tribe took action and started gathering materials from tribal offices and departments, created recycling competitions for the community, and started teaching kids about recycling. 

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Recently, federal grant money has been made available to tribes to help start and grow recycling programs. Last fall, the Coushatta received $565,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency for its small operation. The funds helped repair a storage shed, build a facility for the community to use, and continue educational outreach. But it’s not enough to serve the area’s 3,000 residents of Native and non-Native recyclers for the long haul. 

Typically, small tribes don’t have the resources to run recycling programs because the operations have to be financially successful. Federal funding can offset heavy equipment costs and some labor, but educating people on how to recycle, coupled with long distances from processing facilities, make operation difficult. 

But that hasn’t deterred the Coushatta Tribe.

Courtesy of Skylar Bourque

In 2021, the European Union banned single-use plastics like straws, bottles, cutlery, and shopping bags. Germany recycles 69 percent of its municipal waste thanks to laws that enforce recycling habits. South Korea enforces strict fees for violations of the nation’s recycling protocols and even offers rewards to report violators, resulting in a 60 percent recycling and composting rate. 

But those figures don’t truly illuminate the scale of the world’s recycling product. Around 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been manufactured since the 1950’s and researchers estimate that 91 percent of it isn’t recycled. In the United States, the Department of Energy finds that only 5 percent is recycled, while aluminum, used in packaging has a recycling rate of about 35 percent. The recycling rate for paper products, including books, mail, containers, and packaging, is about 68 percent.

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There are no nationwide recycling laws in the U.S., leaving the task up to states, and only a handful of states take it seriously: Ten have “bottle bills,” which allow individuals to redeem empty containers for cash, while Maine, California, Colorado, and Oregon have passed laws that hold corporations and manufacturers accountable for wasteful packaging by requiring them to help pay for recycling efforts. In the 1960s, the U.S. recycling rate across all materials — including plastic, paper, and glass — was only 7 percent. Now, it’s 32 percent. The EPA aims to increase that number to 50 percent nationwide by 2030, but other than one law targeted at rural recycling moving through Congress, there are no overarching national recycling requirements to help make that happen. 

In 2021, Louisiana had a recycling rate of 2.9 percent, save for cities like New Orleans, where containers are available for free for residents to use to recycle everything from glass bottles to electronics to Mardi Gras beads. In rural areas, access to recycling facilities is scarce if it exists at all, leaving it up to local communities or tribal governments to provide it. There is little reliable data on how many tribes operate recycling programs.

“Tribal members see the state of the world presently, and they want to make a change,” said Skylar Bourque, who works on the tribe’s recycling program. “Ultimately, as a tribe, it’s up to us to give them the tools to do that.”

But the number one issue facing small programs is still funding. Cody Marshall, chief system optimization officer for The Recycling Partnership, a nonprofit, said that many rural communities and tribal nations across the country would be happy to recycle more if they had the funds to do so, but running a recycling program is more expensive than using the landfill that might be next door. 

“Many landfills are in rural areas and many of the processing sites that manage recyclables are in urban areas, and the driving costs alone can sometimes be what makes a recycling program unfeasible,” he said.

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The Recycling Partnership also provides grants for tribes and other communities to help with the cost of recycling. The EPA received 91 applications and selected 59 tribal recycling programs at various stages of development for this year, including one run by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma, which began its recycling program in 2010. Today, it collects nearly 50 metric tons of material a year — material that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

“Once you start small, you can get people on board with you,” said James Williams, director of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s Environmental Services. He is optimistic about the future of recycling in tribal communities. “Now I see blue bins all through the nation,” he said, referring to the recycling containers used by tribal citizens.

Williams’ department has cleaned up a dozen open dumps in the last two years, as well as two lagoons — an issue on tribal lands in Oklahoma and beyond. Illegal dumping can be a symptom of lack of resources due to waste management being historically underfunded. Those dumping on tribal land have also faced inadequate consequences. 

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“We still have the issue of illegal dumping on rural roads,” he said, adding that his goal is to clean up as many as possible. “If you dump something, it’s going to hit a waterway.”

According to Williams, tribes in Oklahoma with recycling programs work together to address problems like long-distance transportation of materials and how to serve tribal communities in rural areas, as well as funding issues specific to tribes, like putting together grant applications and getting tribal governments to make recycling a priority. The Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma also partners with Durant, a nearby town. Durant couldn’t afford a recycling program of their own, so they directed recycling needs to the tribe. 

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This year’s EPA grant to the Muscogee program purchases a $225,000 semitruck, an $80,000 truck for cardboard boxes, and a $200,000 truck that shreds documents. Muscogee was also able to purchase a $70,000 horizontal compactor, which helps with squishing down materials to help store them, and two $5,000 trailers for hauling. Williams’ recycling program operates in conjunction with the Muscogee solid waste program, so they share some of their resources. 

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Returns on recycled material aren’t high. In California, for instance, one ton of plastic can fetch $167, while aluminum can go for $1,230. Corrugated cardboard can also vary wildly from $20 to $210 a ton. Prices for all recycled materials fluctuate regularly, and unless you’re dealing in huge amounts, the business can be hard. Those who can’t sell their material might have to sit on it until they can find a buyer, or throw it away. 

Last year, Muscogee Creek made about $100,000 reselling the materials it collected, but the program cost $250,000 to run. The difference is made up by profits from the Muscogee Creek Nation’s casino, which helps keep the recycling program free for the 101,252 tribal members who live on the reservation. The profits also help non-Natives who want to recycle. 

The Coushatta Tribe serves 3,000 people, Native and non-Native, and they have been rejected by 12 different recycling brokers – individuals that act as intermediaries between operations and buyers – due to the distance materials would have to travel. 

Allie Johnson said she couldn’t find a broker that was close enough, or that was willing to travel to the Coushatta Tribe to pick up their recycling. “We either bite the cost,” she said, “or commute and have to pay extra in gas. It’s exhausting.”

Currently, the only place near them that’s buying recyclables is St. Landry Parish Recycling Center, which only pays $0.01 per pound of cardboard. A truck bed full of aluminum cans only yields $20 from the nearest center, 90 minutes away. That’s how much the tribe expects to make for now. 

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Still, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana is not giving up.

With this new injection of federal money, they will eventually be able to store more materials, and hopefully, make money back on their communities’ recyclables. Much like the Muscogee Creek Nation, they see the recycling program as an amenity, but they still have hopes to turn it into a thriving business. 

In the meantime, the Coushatta keep up their educational programming, teaching children the value of taking care of the Earth, even when it’s hard. 

“It’s about maintaining the land,” Johnson said. 






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