Louisiana lawmakers vote to restrict abortion pill

Packages of mifepristone on display at a family planning clinic in Rockville, Maryland (Anna Moneymaker)
Packages of mifepristone on display at a family planning clinic in Rockville, Maryland (Anna Moneymaker)

Republican lawmakers in the southern US state of Louisiana gave final approval Thursday to a bill that would criminalize possession of abortion pills without a prescription.

The legislation, passed 29-7 by the state senate and 64-29 in the state house, is the first in the country to classify the drugs as controlled and dangerous substances.

It is expected to be signed by Republican Governor Jeff Landry.

The bill comes as abortion rights are being hotly debated ahead of November's presidential election pitting Democratic incumbent Joe Biden against likely Republican challenger Donald Trump.

It reclassifies mifepristone and misoprostol, commonly used for abortions including at-home medication abortions, as Schedule IV drugs -- putting them in the same category as Valium and Xanax.

Possession of the medication without a prescription would be punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Authorized medical practitioners would be exempt from prosecution, as would pregnant women if they had the medication for their own use.

President Joe Biden called the move by Louisiana lawmakers "outrageous."

"This is a direct result of Trump overturning Roe v. Wade," he said in a statement released by his reelection campaign, referring to the landmark Supreme Court ruling that enshrined the constitutional right to abortion for half a century.

"This is a scary time for women across America. If Donald Trump regains power, he will try to make what is happening in states like Louisiana a reality nationwide."

Medication abortion accounted for 63 percent of abortions in the United States last year, up from 53 percent in 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

It said the use of medication -- rather than surgical procedures -- to terminate pregnancy has risen steadily since the Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone in the United States in 2000.

Some 20 states have banned or restricted abortion since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, thanks to conservative justices appointed by Trump.

Abortion is banned in conservative Louisiana with only very limited exceptions in cases of risk to the mother's life or fetuses with fatal abnormalities.

Trump told Time magazine in April he had "pretty strong views" on women's access to mifepristone and would share his opinions within a week of the interview, but never did.

The conservative-majority Supreme Court heard an abortion pill case in March and appeared poised to reject restrictions on the drug imposed by a lower court.

A ruling in the case is expected by the end of June.