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Louisiana Senate passes bill to reclassify abortion pills as controlled substances

By Ehren Wynder
The Louisiana Senate passed a bill that would reclassify the drugs misoprostol and mifepristone as controlled substances, making possession of them without a prescription punishable by up to five years in prison. File Photo by Bill Grenblatt/UPI
The Louisiana Senate passed a bill that would reclassify the drugs misoprostol and mifepristone as controlled substances, making possession of them without a prescription punishable by up to five years in prison. File Photo by Bill Grenblatt/UPI | License Photo

May 23 (UPI) -- The Louisiana Senate on Thursday passed a bill that classifies two drugs used in medication abortions as controlled substances, creating a new hurdle for the most common method of abortion in the United States.

The bill would classify misoprostol and mifepristone, the two drugs used to terminate early stage pregnancies, as controlled substance and criminalize possession of them without a prescription.

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The state Senate approved the bill 29 to 7 after it passed the House on Tuesday. It now heads to the desk of Gov. Jeff Landry, who is expected to sign it.

Landry, a Republican, previously defended Louisiana's strict abortion ban in court as attorney general.

Drugs are typically designated controlled substances if they have a potential for abuse, such what might be presented by drugs such as Ambien, Valium and Xanax, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not consider either abortion medication to have a potential for abuse or dependence.

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The bill was widely criticized by medical professionals, who argued the medications also are used prevent ulcers, manage miscarriages and help during childbirth.

Republican state Sen. Thomas Pressly, who sponsored the bill, said he proposed the legislation after his sister was given abortion drugs by her ex-husband without her consent.

Her husband pleaded guilty to two criminal charges, and her child was born prematurely.

"I understand that it may give some in this body some heartburn," Pressly said to lawmakers Thursday. "But I truly believe this is the right step for making sure that the criminal action on the front end is stopped."

Under the bill, people found in possession of the drugs without a prescription could face up to five years in prison. Pregnant women who have the drugs for their own use are exempt from prosecution.

The designation also allows states to create a database of who is receiving the drugs.

"This legislation does not prohibit these drugs from being prescribed and dispensed in Louisiana for legal and legitimate reasons," state Attorney General Liz Murrill said in a statement.

Dr. Jennifer Avegno, director of the New Orleans Health Department, said classifying these drugs as controlled substances will create logistical hurdles and make it harder to call prescriptions into pharmacies.

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"What it's going to do is make it harder to use these drugs safely and legally," Avegno said. "It's going to create confusion, fear, barriers to using these drugs for all of their non-abortion indications."

Louisiana already bans abortions in most circumstances, except when an abortion is necessary to prevent the risk of death for the mother or if the pregnancy is no longer viable.

A report from the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health think tank, said medication abortion made up 63% of all abortions in the United States last year, a steep increase from 53% in 2020.

President Joe Biden's re-election campaign has sought to tie the legislation to former President Donald Trump, who had appointed three conservative justices who were part of the majority that overturned Roe vs. Wade in 2022.

"Women in Louisiana are one step closer towards living in a world where they can be monitored and tracked and even sent to prison for just holding FDA-approved medications,"B iden campaign co-chair Mitch Landrieu said in a press call.

"What's happening right here in Louisiana is just one example of this dystopian agenda that Trump and his allies are pushing."

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Trump has avoided giving his thoughts on abortion-related issues in recent weeks, other than to say its now a state issue.

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