Louisiana House passes bill that would classify abortion drugs as controlled dangerous substances

ByDianne Gallagher, Shawn Nottingham and John Bonifield, CNN CNNWire logo
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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The Louisiana state House on Tuesday passed an amended bill that would classify the abortion-inducing drugs misoprostol and mifepristone as Schedule IV controlled dangerous substances in the state, placing them in the same category as highly regulated drugs such as narcotics and depressants.

The House's final passage vote was 64-29, and the bill now heads back to the Senate for concurrence.

Senate Bill 276 would make it a crime to give abortion medication to a person without their consent. The amendment that would classify the drugs as Schedule IV substances was added after it passed out of the Senate.

The bill's sponsor, Republican state Sen. Thomas Pressly, said he proposed the legislation after his sister was given misoprostol against her will. Abortion is already banned in Louisiana with no exceptions for rape or incest.

In a medication abortion, mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone, which is needed for a pregnancy to continue. A second drug, misoprostol, is taken within the next 24 to 48 hours. Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, creating cramping and bleeding. Approved for use in other conditions, such as preventing stomach ulcers, the drug has been available at pharmacies for decades.

The amended bill would make it a felony - punishable with up to five years in prison and fines of up to $5,000 - for anyone found in possession of the drugs without a valid prescription.

The legislation includes an exemption for pregnant women in possession of mifepristone and misoprostol for their own consumption. Doctors in the state would still be able to prescribe the drugs.

In Louisiana, the 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.

"Absolutely unconscionable," Vice President Kamala Harris wrote on X in response to the bill's House passage Tuesday night, adding, "Let's be clear: Donald Trump did this."

The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America celebrated the bill's passage.

"Adding abortion drugs to the controlled substance list should be uncontroversial. Like morphine and Valium, the drugs in question will still be available for prescription for legitimate medical reasons - like miscarriage care - but will be harder for abusers to obtain," Caitlin Connors, the group's southern regional director, said in a news release.

CNN has previously reported that the bill sparked outcry from a group of nearly 270 Louisiana physicians, health care providers and medical students, who signed a letter to Pressly expressing concerns over the reclassification.

The letter, obtained by CNN, says in part, "neither mifepristone nor misoprostol have been shown to have any potential for abuse, dependence, public health risk, nor high rates of adverse side effects."

The letter continues that placing the drugs under Schedule IV would create "the false perception that these are dangerous drugs that require additional regulation" and that they are "widely prescribed and taken safely."

Pressly rebutted the letter's claims in a response he shared with CNN last week: "If enacted, this legislation would not prohibit misoprostol or even mifepristone from being prescribed or dispensed for legitimate reasons."

"The doctors I have consulted with feel this provision will not harm healthcare for women," he continued.

If the state Senate accepts the amended bill passed out of the House, it will next head to the desk of Republican Gov. Jeff Landry. If Landry were to sign the bill into law, Louisiana would become the only state to classify the drugs as controlled dangerous substances.

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