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Louisiana Lawmakers Send Bill to Governor’s Desk That Would Classify Abortion Drugs as Controlled Dangerous Substances

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images/File

Mifepristone, right, and misoprostol, the two drugs used in a medication abortion, are seen at the Women’s Reproductive Clinic in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, on June 17, 2022.



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Louisiana lawmakers on Thursday gave final approval to a bill that would classify the abortion drugs misoprostol and mifepristone as Schedule IV controlled dangerous substances in the state, putting them in the same category as highly regulated drugs like narcotics and depressants.

The state Senate voted 29-7 to pass the bill largely along party lines, which the state House passed earlier this week. It now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Jeff Landry, who is expected to sign it into law.

CNN has reached out to Landry’s office for comment.

If signed into law, Louisiana would become the first state to classify drugs as controlled dangerous substances. Abortion is already prohibited in Louisiana with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Senate Bill 276 would make it a crime to give abortion medications to a person without their consent. An amendment to classify the drugs as Schedule IV substances was added to the legislation after it was initially approved by the Senate, which later approved the change on Thursday.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Thomas Pressly, said he proposed the legislation after his sister was given the medication misoprostol against her will.

Under the measure, anyone found in possession of the drugs without a valid prescription could face a felony charge, punishable by up to five years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.

In a medical abortion, mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone, which is necessary for the pregnancy to continue. Misoprostol is then taken within the next 24 to 48 hours. Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, causing cramping and bleeding. Both medications can be used in spontaneous abortion care. Misoprostol, which has been available in pharmacies for decades, is also approved for use in other conditions, such as preventing stomach ulcers.

Pregnant women in possession of mifepristone and misoprostol for their own consumption would be exempt from such penalties under the legislation. Louisiana doctors could also prescribe the drugs.

A conviction in Louisiana for distribution or possession with intent to distribute Schedule IV drugs carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $15,000.

The bill sparked outrage from a group of nearly 270 Louisiana doctors, health care providers and medical students, who signed a letter to Pressly expressing concern about the reclassification. They argued that “neither mifepristone nor misoprostol have been shown to have potential for abuse, dependence, public health risk, or high rates of adverse side effects.”

In response, Pressly said the legislation would not prevent the prescribing or dispensing of drugs “for legitimate reasons.”

Proponents of the bill, like Pressly, have largely touted the legislation as a way to protect pregnant women. Sarah Zagorski, communications director for Louisiana Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, praised Republican lawmakers who supported the bill in a statement Thursday.

Zagorski also said the intent of the bill “is to prevent the abortion industry from profiting from the abuse and trafficking of vulnerable women through its blatantly illegal distribution of pills.”

Critics have argued that rather than helping women, the bill could prevent them from accessing needed care. Michelle Erenberg, executive director of the reproductive rights group Lift Louisiana, said the bill was a “legitimate attempt to address a terrible crime” that had been “hijacked by anti-abortion activists.”

“It is absurd that the state continues to pass laws that will delay access to timely care for pregnant patients when we have one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country,” Erenberg added.

Victoria, a New Orleans woman who flew across the country to get a medication abortion in 2023 because of Louisiana’s ban on the procedure, said she felt “trapped” and “dehumanized” when she heard the bill passed. in the state Senate. She asked CNN to withhold her last name for fear of backlash against her and her family.

“I feel trapped and dehumanized,” she said. “What is most irritating is the completely false position that the purpose of these restrictions is to protect women. Clearly, that is a ruse and an attack on women’s attempts to hold on to their right to self-determination.”

Medication abortion, which makes up the majority of abortions obtained in the United States, has become a point of national political tension since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

The Supreme Court is currently considering a major case challenging the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, and in March most justices were skeptical of a nationwide ban or new limits on the drug. A decision is expected in July.

President Joe Biden said in a statement Thursday that the Louisiana bill is a “direct result” of the “overturning of Roe v. Wade” by former President Donald Trump. Trump named three of the conservative judges who voted to overturn the decades-old ruling.

Biden added that “this is a scary time for women across America” and said that if re-elected, Trump “will try to make what’s happening in states like Louisiana a reality on a national level.”

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Samantha Waldenberg, Cristina Zdanowicz, Shawn Nottingham and John Bonifield contributed to this report.

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