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Louisiana House approves bill to classify abortion pills as controlled substances

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Washington — The Louisiana House approved legislation Tuesday that would classify the drugs used in medication abortions as controlled substances, criminalizing possession of the drugs without a prescription.

The bill passed 64 to 29 in the GOP-controlled state House, and if it's signed into law, Louisiana would become the first state to classify misoprostol and mifepristone — the two drugs used in a regimen to terminate early-stage pregnancies — as controlled substances.

The controlled substances designation typically occurs when a drug is considered addictive, such as opioids or depressants. It also enables states to track drugs and create a database of who's receiving them, along with making possession of the medication without a prescription a crime. Under the legislation, pregnant women are exempted from prosecution.

The two-drug regimen accounts for well over half of all abortions in the U.S., making it a target for opponents of abortion and a key avenue for access for those who support abortion rights. Mifepristone in particular, which was approved by the FDA in 2000, has been under fire in recent years. The Supreme Court is considering a case this term concerning the rules around the drug's use.

File: Mifepristone and Misoprostol are seen at the Women's Reproductive Clinic, which provides legal medication abortion services, in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, on June 17, 2022.  ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

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 in a Biden-Harris campaign press call Wednesday 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. 

"The State of Louisiana would effectively be creating a database of prescriptions for every woman who is prescribed mifepristone and misoprostol, regardless of the reason, truly monitoring women and their pregnancies," Schilling said. "That should be unimaginable in America."

Although abortion is already banned in Louisiana in most circumstances, except when it's deemed necessary to prevent the risk of death for the mother or when the pregnancy is "medically futile," the legislation could be a template for other states to take aim at the medication commonly used in early-stage pregnancies. 

"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," said Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans and a Biden campaign co-chair. "What's happening right here in Louisiana is just one example of this dystopian agenda that Trump and his allies are pushing."

Aaron Navarro contributed reporting. 

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