Louisiana Declares Abortion Drugs ‘dangerous substances’ To Add Harsher Penalties

Greg LaRose, Louisiana Illuminator

The Louisiana Legislature gave final approval Thursday to a bill that would label two drugs used to induce labor and treat miscarriages as “controlled dangerous substances,” despite opposition from a broad group of medical professionals.

The proposal from state Sen. Thomas Pressly, a Shreveport Republican, targets mifepristone and misoprostol, the two primary drugs used for medication abortions. His fellow senators voted 29-7 to advance the legislation to GOP Gov. Jeff Landry, a staunch anti-abortion advocate who is expected to sign it into law.

Louisiana would be the first state to attach criminal penalties to the medications.

Once the law takes effect Oct. 1, anyone who prescribes or dispenses either of the two medications without the proper authorization could face criminal penalties with the severity currently reserved for potentially addictive drugs such as Xanax and Valium.

After the state House approved the measure Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris singled out Louisiana lawmakers on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, calling their action “absolutely unconscionable.”

Pressly brought his proposal forward after his pregnant sister was unknowingly given the drug by her estranged husband. Mason Herring, a Houston attorney, was sentenced in February to 180 days in prison and 10 years on probation for the crime, according to the Associated Press.

A harsher punishment was needed for the offense, Pressly said, and the original version of his bill dealt only with the crime. Louisiana Right to Life, the state’s leading anti-abortion group, lobbied lawmakers to update the proposal and make mifepristone and misoprostol Schedule IV drugs.

More than 200 Louisiana doctors signed a letter sent to Pressly asking him to remove the amendment. In it, they said the two medications are no more controlled dangerous substances than other commonly prescribed drugs such as insulin, Viagra and Ozempic.

If mifepristone and misoprostol become controlled substances, doctors prescribing them will need specialty licenses. Health care providers and pharmacists will also have to ensure their secure storage.

On the Senate floor, Sen. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, questioned Pressly over whether his measure would prevent immediate access to the drugs in emergency situations. Pressly said those in urgent need would still be able to obtain needed medications through hospital emergency rooms.

“We’re using politics to decide how to govern care for women, and that should not be the case,” Duplessis later said in a statement. “Decision making like that is why we are last in maternal health outcomes.”

The legislation allows patients with a prescription to use the drugs, and it excludes pregnant women who take the medication from criminal penalties. It would be a felony crime for anyone else in possession of either of the medications, punishable by up to five years in prison. Anyone intending to distribute the drugs could face up to 10 years in prison.

The new legislation would also fall under Louisiana’s laws against racketeering, a designation typically used for organized crime and gang activity.

It is already illegal to use drugs to induce an abortion in Louisiana, which approved one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans in 2022 that took effect after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized the procedure.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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