Louisiana Passes Bill To Categorize Abortion Pills As Controlled Substances | CBC News


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 Thursday and is expected to be signed into law by the governor.

Governor expected to sign bill into law, with Supreme Court expected to weigh in soon on mifepristoneThe Associated Press

· Posted: May 24, 2024 7:57 AM EDT | Last Updated: May 24

An abortion-rights activist holds a box of mifepristone pills as anti-abortion and abortion-rights groups both rallied outside the Supreme Court in Washington on March 26. The Louisiana legislature this week passed a law to categorize mifepristone and misoprostol as controlled substances. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/The Associated Press)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 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, though they cited only one example of that happening, in the state of Texas.

Numerous doctors, meanwhile, have said it will make it harder for them to prescribe the medicines, which they also use for other important reproductive health-care needs.

Passage of the bill comes as both abortion rights advocates and abortion opponents await a final decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on an effort to restrict access to mifepristone. The justices did not appear ready to limit access to the drug on the day they heard arguments.

WATCH l Explaining what the Supreme Court is deciding in mifepristone case:

U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments over abortion drug availabilityU.S. Supreme Court justices heard arguments in a case that could limit access to the commonly used abortion drug mifepristone. Since the pandemic, more doctors have dispensed the drug through telemedicine but anti-abortion activists want that stopped.

In addition to inducing abortions, mifepristone and misoprostol have other common uses, such as treating miscarriages, inducing labour and stopping hemorrhaging.

Mifepristone was approved by the U.S. 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.

Vice-President Kamala Harris, in a social media post, described Louisiana’s bill as “absolutely unconscionable.”

Many doctors voice their oppositionThe Republican-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. Louisiana currently has a near-total abortion ban in place, applying both to surgical and medical abortions.

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, a category that includes opioids. The classification would require doctors to have a specific licence to prescribe the drugs, and the drugs would have to 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. Language in the bill appears to carve out protections for pregnant women 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 the measure could produce a “barrier to physicians’ ease of prescribing appropriate treatment” and cause unnecessary fear and confusion among both patients and doctors.

Vice-President Kamala Harris reacts to Louisiana bill:

President Biden and I remain committed to defending access to reproductive health care, including medication abortion.

We will continue to fight back against extremists’ unconscionable attacks in Louisiana and across the nation. https://t.co/jFe3KY0NRs

—@VPThe 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.

“This goes too far. We have not properly vetted this with the health-care community and I believe it’s going to lead to further harm down the road,” said Democratic Sen. Royce Duplessis, who voted against the measure. “There’s a reason we rank at the bottom in terms of maternal health outcomes, and this is why.”

LISTEN l The origins of the abortion pill case U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide (March 2023):

Front Burner24:56U.S. abortion pill access threatened by Texas lawsuit

Bill sponsor Sen. Thomas Pressly pushed for an amendment to reclassify the drugs. Pressly said both the bill and the amendment were motivated by what happened to his sister Catherine Herring of Texas. In 2022, Herring’s husband slipped her seven misoprostol pills in an effort to induce an abortion without her knowledge or consent. There have been several cases similar to Herring’s reported by news outlets over the past 15 years, though none of those cited were in Louisiana.

“The purpose of bringing this legislation is certainly not to prevent these drugs from being used for legitimate health care purposes,” Pressly said. “I am simply trying to put safeguards and guardrails in place to keep bad actors from getting these medications.”

The state Senate voted 29-7, mainly along party lines, to pass the legislation.

In the 39-person Senate there are only five women, all of whom voted in favour of the bill.

The Louisiana legislation now heads to the desk of conservative Republican Gov. 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.” 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *