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Louisiana lawmakers OK first-in-the-nation plan to list abortion pills as controlled substances

2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago Thursday, May 23 2024 May 23, 2024 May 23, 2024 12:43 PM May 23, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Senate gave final approval Thursday to a bill targeting access to two drugs used in medical abortions, agreeing to place them on a list of the state's controlled substances even though neither are subject to addiction. No other state has done so.

Gov. Jeff Landry is expected the sign the bill, which would take effect upon his approval. 

In a 29-7 vote, senators backed Sen. Thomas Pressley's bill that targeted attempts to induce abortions in unsuspecting women. The bill was amended to list misoprostol and mifepristone as Schedule IV controlled substances. The drugs are listed in the same category as Xanax.

Opponents said that limiting distribution of the drug could harm women who live in rural parishes or have limited access to doctors and pharmacies by making it hard to obtain them in a medical emergency. While used in a combination, they cause abortions, but they have other uses individually, including to help induce labor or treat ulcers or constipation.

Pressley, a Republican from Shreveport, had said his ex-brother-in-law slipped an abortion-inducing drug into his sister's drink without her knowledge. The woman gave birth 10 weeks early. The man was sentenced to a half-year in jail, according to The Associated Press.

The House approved the bill 64-29 Tuesday.

In Tuesday's debate, opponents said it was proper for state health officials to designate drugs as controlled substances, not the Legislature. "That takes the politics out of it," said W. Jay Luneau, D-Pineville. 

Delaying medical care for people when they need it most could be dangerous, he said.

"There could be time delays that could be fatal, and when that happens, I hope and I pray that it's not to one of our daughters or wives," he said.

Most abortions are illegal in Louisiana, and have been since 2022, whether surgical or with the combination of misoprostol and mifepristone.

Louisiana Right to Life, which supported the bill, SB276, said after the vote that the drugs remain available for doctors to use for legitimate reasons.

"SB276 does not prohibit the medications to be used in healthcare situations that do not result in elective abortion," it said in a statement.

The drugs will be on Louisiana's list of controlled substances. A federal list contains drugs subject to abuse, such as opioids, amphetamines and sleeping aids, among others.

Planned Parenthood said the legislative action was part of an extremist agenda targeting women.

"This further proves that anti-abortion lawmakers in Louisiana are not satisfied with just banning abortion," the group said in a statement. "In their relentless crusade to control our bodies and lives, they are threatening all of our access to reproductive and maternal health care, even in emergencies."

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