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National News

Louisiana governor signs law to declare abortion drugs ‘dangerous substances’

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Greg LaRose, Louisiana Illuminator

May 24, 2024

Republican Gov. Jeff Landry signed a proposal into law Friday that designates two drugs used in reproductive health care as “controlled dangerous substances” in Louisiana. It’s now the first state to establish criminal penalties for anyone who handles the medication without proper clearance. 

Mifepristone and misoprostol, the two primary drugs used for medication abortions, will be considered Schedule IV drugs, putting them on par with potentially addictive prescription drugs such as Valium and Xanax. They are also widely used to induce labor in pregnant women and those who have miscarriages, as well as to treat ulcers and constipation.    

Once the law takes effect October 1, anyone who prescribes or dispenses either of the two medications without the proper authorization could face jail time.

“Requiring an abortion-inducing drug to be obtained with a prescription, and criminalizing the use of an abortion drug on an unsuspecting mother is nothing short of common sense,” Landry said in a statement. “This bill protects women across Louisiana, and I was proud to sign this bill into law today.”

Critics of the proposal fear it will limit options for prompt care in emergency situations, especially in rural areas where access to medical professionals with prescription authority is limited. More than 200 physicians signed a letter sent to the proposal’s author, Sen. Thomas Pressly, asking him to remove the Schedule IV designation from it

Pressly, a Republican from Shreveport, had initially crafted a bill that sought harsher criminal punishment for anyone who caused a pregnant woman to take abortion drugs without their knowledge or consent. He brought his proposal forward after his pregnant sister was unknowingly given misoprostol in 2022 by her estranged husband. 

Mason Herring, a Houston attorney, pleaded guilty in February and was sentenced to 180 days in prison and 10 years probation, according to the Associated Press. Pressly’s sister, who appeared before lawmakers to promote the measure, delivered her daughter 10 weeks premature, and she said the child continues to require intensive weekly therapy.

The Louisiana Senate advanced that original version of Pressly’s bill, but the state’s top anti-abortion organization, Louisiana Right to Life, was able to add the Schedule IV language in the House of Representatives. The group is very active in state politics, often lending its clout to candidates who opposed elected officials, even Republicans, who don’t agree with its strong stance against abortion. 

Louisiana enacted one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans two years ago, just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion. The procedure is illegal in Louisiana except for instances where the life of the mother is at risk. Even with that provision, doctors have been reluctant to administer critical material care or force delivery of stillborn infants for fear of breaking state law.   

It is already illegal to use drugs to induce an abortion in Louisiana, which has also outlawed obtaining such medications through the mail.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Louisiana Illuminator under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.