Castration for sex offenders, restrictions on abortion pills: A look at Louisiana's busy legislative session

The Louisiana state Capitol in Baton Rouge in 2023.
The Louisiana state Capitol in Baton Rouge in 2023. (Stephen Smith/AP)

A sweeping rightward policy change is afoot across Louisiana.

Gov. Jeff Landry, a mere five months into his tenure, celebrated the close of the state's three-month Legislative session earlier this week by saluting the more than 400 bills passed by the body.

“I'm extremely excited that we have done more than I think any other governor has done in a long time in a very short period of time,” Landry proclaimed in a news conference.

That legislative energy is no accident. For the first time in years, Louisiana's Republican-controlled legislature was able to team up with a governor from the same party. Landry's predecessor, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, had effectively used his veto powers to stave off some initiatives from the state's lawmakers. Last year, Louisiana passed only 179 bills in the same time period.

Not everyone is embracing the change. Several pieces of legislation have been met with controversy, including bills involving surgical castration, abortion medication, and religion in schools.

For example, more than 200 doctors from the Pelican State signed a letter criticizing a bill to classify abortion medications mifepristone and misoprostol as controlled substances. The letter said the measure instituted a “barrier to physicians’ ease of prescribing appropriate treatment.” Vice President Kamala Harris called the bill "absolutely unconscionable."

Landry, however, appeared undeterred by any criticism. In a video Monday, he thanked residents for their support and touted the "great success" of his first legislative session. Here's a look at some of the high-profile measures that were passed.

⚖️ Surgical castration for sex offenders

Legislation passed: SB 371

Status: Awaiting Landry’s signature

Main sponsor: Louisiana state Sen. Regina Ashford Barrow, a Democrat

What it will do: It allows for a judge to sentence sex offenders whose victims are under the age of 13 to be surgically castrated as a punishment. The bill doesn’t apply to sex offenders under the age of 17.

❌ Restricting abortion access

Legislation passed: SB 276

Status: Goes into effect Oct. 1, 2024

Main sponsor: Louisiana state Sen. Thomas Pressly, a Republican

What it will do: Louisiana will classify two commonly used abortion drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration, mifepristone and misoprostol, as dangerous controlled substances. Under SB 276, individuals who possess the medication abortion drugs without a prescription could face a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Pregnant women will be exempt from persecution.

👤 Targeting the LGBTQ+ community

Legislation passed: HB 608

Status: Goes into effect Aug. 1, 2024

Main sponsor: Louisiana state Rep. Roger Wilder, a Republican

What it will do: Transgender people will be required to use only public restrooms, locker rooms or changing facilities based on the sex they were assigned at birth. The law will also apply to restrooms in prisons and at domestic violence shelters and sleeping areas at those facilities. All-gender, single-occupancy restrooms or changing spaces would still be allowed under the law.

Legislation passed: HB 122

Status: Awaiting Landry’s signature

Main sponsor: Louisiana state Rep. Dodie Horton, a Republican

What it will do: The law would ban all discussion of sexuality and gender in classrooms, school clubs and social activities.

Legislation passed: HB 121

Status: Awaiting Landry’s signature

Main sponsor: Louisiana state Rep. Raymond J. Crews, a Republican

What it will do: Parents will have to give permission for students to change their name or use preferred pronouns they use in school. If a school employee refuses to address a student or co-worker by a name or pronoun other than what’s indicated on their birth certificate, the employee cannot be punished.

⛪ Religion in schools

Legislation passed: HB 71

Status: Awaiting Landry’s signature

Main sponsor: Louisiana state Rep. Dodie Horton, a Republican

What it will do: Louisiana will require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every classroom at all public universities and K-12 schools. It will be the first state in the U.S. to enact a religious requirement like this in public schools.

🥪 Limits on lunch breaks for working teens

Legislation passed: HB 156

Status: Awaiting Landry’s signature

Main sponsor: Louisiana state Rep. Roger Wilder, a Republican

What it will do: Under the law, employers will not be required by law to provide at least a 20-minute lunch break for 16- and 17-year-olds when they work at least five hours. Breaks would be required for workers under 16 years of age.

👮 Protection for police officers

Legislation passed: HB 173

Status: Goes into effect Aug. 1, 2024

Main sponsor: Louisiana state Rep. Bryan Fontenot, a Republican

What it will do: It will be a crime for a person to come within 25 feet of a police officer who is carrying out his official duties if that person had been warned not to do so. If convicted, a person could face up to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.

🪧 Limiting protesters

Legislation passed: HB 737

Status: Awaiting Landry’s signature

Main sponsor: Louisiana state Rep. Kellee Hennessy Dickerson, a Republican

What it will do: It will be illegal for anyone to petition, picket or assemble within 50 feet of a person’s home. Anyone who violates the law would face a penalty of up to $500 per day.

Legislation passed: HB 383

Status: Awaiting Landry’s signature

Main sponsor: Louisiana state Rep. Jay Gallé, a Republican

What it will do: The measure will grant immunity for drivers who run over protesters if the drivers feel threatened.