Louisiana House Passes Bill Making Abortion Pills ‘Controlled Dangerous Substances’

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

The Louisiana House on Tuesday approved a bill to add two abortion-inducing drugs to the list of Schedule IV controlled dangerous substances in the state, making it a felony for anyone to possess them without a valid prescription.

The measure, Senate Bill 276, passed 64-29 in the Republican-controlled lower chamber after an hour of debate and some amendments. It will now be sent back to the Senate for concurrence, and then on to the desk of Gov. Jeff Landry (R).

If it is signed into law as expected, Louisiana will become the first state in the country to consider the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol in the same category as narcotics and depressants, making their possession without a valid prescription a crime punishable by fines of up to $5,000 and years-long jail terms.

The bill allows Louisiana doctors to prescribe the drug. It also includes an exemption for pregnant women who obtain the abortion drugs for their own consumption. Vice President Kamala Harris was among those who expressed horror at its passage in the House, tweeting on Tuesday night that it was “absolutely unconscionable.”

“Let’s be clear: Donald Trump did this,” she added.

Abortion is already banned in Louisiana under most circumstances except to save the life of the mother or because the pregnancy is “medically futile.” There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

State Sen. Thomas Pressly (R) is responsible for the bill’s introduction. The proposed legislation began as a means of making a crime out of “coerced criminal abortion by means of fraud”—in other words, using the drugs to induce an abortion without the consent of the pregnant person.

The lawmaker has explained that the issue had had a personal impact on him and his loved ones. Pressly’s sister, Catherine Herring, consumed abortion pills without her knowledge when she was given them by her estranged husband. Mason Herring pleaded guilty to charges of injury to a child and assault of a pregnant person earlier this year and was sentenced to 180 days behind bars.

He only attached the amendment to reclassify mifepristone and misoprostol after the bill’s unanimous passage in the Senate last month.

“Everyone was blindsided. This was attached to a very specific bill—in response to the horrible thing that happened to his sister,” state Rep. Mandie Landry (D) said Monday, according to The Washington Post. “Then this different issue comes in. It was like the senator pulled a fast one. Changing the category of the medications is just malicious, and now every conservative state in the country will be copying it.”

The bill’s introduction was also met with fierce blowback from hundreds of Louisiana healthcare providers, who signed a letter to Pressly protesting its potential passage. The letter, obtained by CNN, stresses that mifepristone and misoprostol are “widely prescribed and taken safely,” that they are non-addictive, and that reclassifying them would create “the false perception that these are dangerous drugs that require additional regulation.”

Pressly told the network that the doctors he had consulted with about the legislation “feel this provision will not harm healthcare for women.”

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