Louisiana Lawmakers Vote to Make Abortion Pills Controlled Substances

Louisiana lawmakers passed legislation on Thursday to make the state the first in the nation to designate abortion pills as dangerous controlled substances. Possession of the drugs without a prescription would be a crime punishable with jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.

The legislation, which passed the State Senate by a vote of 29 to 7, now goes to Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican who previously defended the state’s stringent abortion ban in court as attorney general. He is widely expected to sign it.

By classifying the abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol as Schedule IV drugs — a category of medicines with some potential for abuse or dependence that includes Ambien, Valium and Xanax, among others — lawmakers in the state say they aim to curb the illicit distribution of the drugs for abortions. But the Food and Drug Administration does not consider the two medications to have potential for abuse or dependence, and years of research have overwhelmingly shown both pills to be safe.

Because Louisiana already bans most abortions, and because the two drugs are also prescribed for other uses — both can be used during miscarriages, and misoprostol is often used to prevent ulcers and help during childbirth — hundreds of doctors in the state strenuously opposed the legislation.

“I understand that it may give some in this body some heartburn,” State Senator Thomas Pressly, who championed the bill, said to other lawmakers on Thursday. “But I truly believe this is the right step for making sure that the criminal action on the front end is stopped.”

Doctors and other medical professionals warned lawmakers that the bill would send the false message that the drugs are dangerous, and that it could cause delays in treatment for patients with medical needs not related to abortion.

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