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Louisiana lawmakers send bill that would classify abortion drugs as controlled dangerous substances to governor’s desk

<i>Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images/File via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Louisiana lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that would classify the abortion-inducing drugs misoprostol and mifepristone as Schedule IV controlled dangerous substances in the state
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images/File via CNN Newsource
Louisiana lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that would classify the abortion-inducing drugs misoprostol and mifepristone as Schedule IV controlled dangerous substances in the state

By Piper Hudspeth Blackburn and Dianne Gallagher, CNN

(CNN) — Louisiana lawmakers on Thursday gave final approval to a 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 state Senate voted 29-7 to pass the bill largely along party lines, which the state House approved earlier this week. It now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Jeff Landry, who is expected to sign it into law.

CNN has reached out to Landry’s office for comment.

If signed into law, Louisiana would become the first state to classify the drugs as controlled dangerous substances. Abortion is already banned in Louisiana with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Senate Bill 276 would make it a crime to give abortion medication to a person without their consent. An amendment to classify the drugs as Schedule IV substances was added to the legislation after it initially passed out of the Senate, which then concurred the change on Thursday.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Thomas Pressly, said he proposed the legislation after his sister was given the drug misoprostol against her will.

Under the measure, anyone found in possession of the drugs without a valid prescription could face a felony charge – punishable with up to five years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.

In a medication abortion, mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone, which is needed for a pregnancy to continue. Misoprostol is then taken within the next 24 to 48 hours. Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, creating cramping and bleeding. Both drugs can be used in miscarriage care. Misoprostol, which has been available at pharmacies for decades, is also approved for use in other conditions, such as preventing stomach ulcers.

Pregnant women in possession of mifepristone and misoprostol for their own consumption would be exempt from such penalties under the legislation. Louisiana doctors would also still be able to prescribe the drugs.

A conviction in Louisiana for 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.

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. They argued that “neither mifepristone nor misoprostol have been shown to have any potential for abuse, dependence, public health risk, nor high rates of adverse side effects.”

In response, Pressly said the legislation would not prevent the prescribing or dispensing of the drugs “for legitimate reasons.”

The bill’s proponents, like Pressly, have largely touted the legislation as a way to protect expectant mothers. Sarah Zagorski, the communications director for Louisiana Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, praised the GOP lawmakers that supported the bill in a statement Thursday.

Zagorski also said the intention of the bill “is to stop the abortion industry from profiting off of abuse and trafficking of vulnerable women through their flagrantly illegal distribution of pills.”

Critics have argued ​​that instead of helping women, the bill could prevent them from accessing necessary care. Michelle Erenberg, executive director of reproductive rights group Lift Louisiana, said the bill was a “legitimate attempt to address a terrible crime” that had been “hijacked by anti-abortion activists.”

“It is absurd that the state would continue to pass laws that will delay access to timely care for pregnant patients when we have one of the highest maternal death rates in the country,” Erenberg added.

Victoria, a New Orleans woman who flew across the country to get a medication abortion in 2023 because of Louisiana’s ban on the procedure, said she felt “trapped” and “dehumanized” when she heard the bill passed through the state Senate. She asked CNN to withhold her last name out of fear of backlash against her and her family.

“I feel trapped and dehumanized,” she said, “What’s more infuriating is the completely disingenuous posture that the goal with these restrictions is to protect women. Clearly, that’s a ruse and it’s an attack on women’s attempts to hold onto their right to self-determination.”

Medication abortion, which makes up the majority of abortions obtained in the United States, has emerged as a national political flashpoint since the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022.

The Supreme Court is currently considering a major case that challenges the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, with a majority of justices appearing skeptical in March of a nationwide ban or new limits on the drug. A decision is expected by July.

President Joe Biden said in a statement Thursday that the Louisiana bill is a “direct result” of former President Donald Trump “overturning Roe v. Wade.” Trump appointed three of the conservative justices who voted to reverse the decades-old ruling.

Biden added that “this is a scary time for women across America” and said, if reelected, Trump will “try to make what is happening in states like Louisiana a reality nationwide.”

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Samantha Waldenberg, Christina Zdanowicz, Shawn Nottingham and John Bonifield contributed to this report.

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