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Louisiana legislature approves bill to classify abortion pills as controlled substances

Louisiana closer to reclassifying abortion drugs
Louisiana legislature approves bill reclassifying 2 abortion drugs as controlled substances 01:25

Washington — The Louisiana Senate passed a bill Thursday that would classify the drugs used in medication abortions as controlled substances, criminalizing possession of the drugs without a prescription. It now heads to the governor for his signature. 

The state Senate approved the bill 29 to 7 after it passed the House earlier this week. The bill is expected to be signed by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry, making Louisiana the first state to classify as controlled substances misoprostol and mifepristone — the two drugs used in a regimen to terminate early-stage pregnancies. 

The regimen accounts for well over half of all abortions in the U.S., making it a key avenue for access for those who support abortion rights and a target for abortion opponents. Drug are typically designated as controlled substances when they're considered addictive, such as opioids or depressants. And the designation enables states to create a database of who's receiving the drugs. It also makes possession of the medication without a prescription a crime. But under the legislation, pregnant women are exempted from prosecution.

Abortion is already banned in Louisiana in most circumstances. Exceptions are made when abortion is deemed necessary to prevent the risk of death for the mother or when the pregnancy is "medically futile." But the legislation could be a template for other states to take aim at the medication commonly used in early-stage pregnancies. 

The Biden-Harris campaign sharply criticized the effort on Wednesday, hosting a press call with former mayor of New Orleans and Biden campaign co-chair Mitch Landrieu, who put the blame squarely on former President Donald Trump.

"Women in Louisiana are one step closer towards living in a world where they can be monitored and tracked and even sent to prison for just holding FDA-approved medications," Landrieu said. "What's happening right here in Louisiana is just one example of this dystopian agenda that Trump and his allies are pushing."

President Biden called the legislation "outrageous" in a statement, saying it's the "direct result of Trump overturning Roe v. Wade."

"Donald Trump says that women should face some form of 'punishment' for accessing reproductive health care. We're seeing that play out," Mr. Biden said. 

The medications are also used outside of abortions, for other care such as managing miscarriages. Ellie Schilling, an attorney in Louisiana who specializes in reproductive health law, told reporters that the bill would make it "incredibly difficult" to use the drugs for medically necessary purposes, and would lead to the government monitoring pregnant women and those who prescribe the medication. 

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