Updated May 24, 2024 - Politics

Louisiana poised to become 1st state to make abortion pills a controlled substance

Illustration of a spotlight shining on a pill

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Two abortion medications will become controlled substances in Louisiana after Gov. Jeff Landry signed a new bill into law Friday.

Why it matters: A person in Louisiana caught with mifepristone or misoprostol without a prescription could face up to 10 years in prison.

The big picture: Louisiana, which has one of the country's highest maternal mortality rates, will be the first state to classify the medications as Schedule IV drugs.

  • Abortion, including using either of the two medications, is already banned in Louisiana.
  • Doctors have said the new rules will further complicate providing care and could increase deaths among postpartum women, according to WWNO's Rosemary Westwood.
  • The medications have uses beyond abortion, like helping prevent ulcers and treating constipation and postpartum hemorrhages.

Driving the news: State senators passed the bill 29-7 on Thursday, sending it to the governor's desk.

  • Sen. Thomas Pressly, R-Shreveport, submitted the legislation, SB276, after his sister, a Texas resident, unknowingly consumed an abortion pill after her husband put it in her drink.
  • The bill originally created the crime of "coerced criminal abortion," and the reclassification was later added as an amendment.
  • "I understand that it may give some in this body some heartburn," Pressly said Thursday to lawmakers, according to the New York Times. "But I truly believe this is the right step for making sure that the criminal action on the front end is stopped."

Between the lines: State lawmakers banned mailing abortion drugs in 2022 with a penalty of up to 10 years, but some organizations outside the state's jurisdiction have been working around that regulation, according to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.

The other side: New Orleans Reps. Matt Willard, Aimee Adatto Freeman, Candace Newell and Mandie Landry shared concerns earlier this week about the amendment, highlighting potential delays in care that Louisiana patients may receive.

  • "Where it's going to be felt the most is rural and small areas. They just don't have as many doctors out there. They don't have the facilities for" managing the additional requirements, said Landry, who tried but failed to remove the drug scheduling amendment.

The fine print: Schedule IV drugs are defined in Louisiana as those with low potential for abuse, an accepted medical use, and those that may lead to limited physical dependance.

  • The classification requires providers to take additional steps to track who prescribes and receives the medications.

What she said: Vice President Kamala Harris called the bill "unconscionable" on X when it cleared the state House of Representatives on Tuesday.

  • "Let's be clear," she wrote, "Donald Trump did this."

What's next: With Landry's signature, the bill goes into effect Oct. 1.

  • Landry called the law a "common-sense" way to protect women "across Louisiana."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that the bill has been signed into law.

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