New Louisiana Bill Classifies Abortion Pills as Controlled Dangerous Substances

Photo of Mifepristone Tablets Robin Marty/

LOUISIANA — On Friday, Louisiana became the first state to classify the abortion pills, misoprostol and mifepristone, as Schedule IV controlled dangerous substances. This classification places these pills in the same category as depressants and narcotics. 

Louisiana governor, Jeff Landry tweeted, “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. This bill protects women across Louisiana and I was proud to sign this bill into law today.” Now, those who possess these pills without a prescription, or give the drugs to a person without consent could be facing up to five years in prison. Lawmakers must approve the bill by June 3, which will then go to Governor Landry to sign.

Abortion laws have come into the national spotlight after the Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in 2022. While elective pregnancy terminations are already illegal with no exceptions for rape or incest in Louisiana, these new restrictions affect other women’s health concerns, as mifepristone and misoprostol are used to induce childbirth, miscarriages, and stop uterine hemorrhage, for example. Mifepristone blocks the production of progesterone, a necessary hormone to continue a pregnancy. Misoprostol is taken in the next 24-48 hours to cause the uterus to contract

Louisiana has some of the worst maternal health outcomes in the country. In 2023, 39 mothers died per 100,000 births, and a majority of Louisiana’s counties have a very high vulnerability to poor maternal outcomes. Furthermore, the Louisiana Department of Health found that in 2020, 93% of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable. Further barriers to receiving the medications may result in mothers not receiving the care that they need, potentially worsening their health outcomes. Moreover, doctors report widespread fear due to the vagueness of anti-abortion laws, and the possibility that giving maternal care could result in jail time.

Critics of the bill state that the two drugs are not dangerous and should not be regulated to the same degree as Schedule IV substances. Furthermore, critics stated weariness about creating false perceptions about the safety of the medications, and discouraging people from accessing the care that they may need. Vice President Kamala Harris, via X, stated that “[e]xtremists in Louisiana just passed legislation to criminalize the possession of safe and effective abortion medication with penalties of several years of jail time. Donald Trump is to blame.” Furthermore, a group of 270 Louisiana physicians signed a letter to Thomas Pressly, a Republican state senator and the bill’s sponsor, stating their concerns over the bill. As written in the letter, “neither mifepristone nor misoprostol have been shown to have any potential for abuse, dependence, public health risk, nor high rates of adverse side effects.”

Conversely, Republican legislators in the state and anti-abortion activists celebrated the legislation as a mechanism to help protect expectant mothers, preventing the drug from being prescribed against their will. Furthermore, State Senator Pressly expressed his disagreement with the claim that the bill would prohibit the prescription of misoprostol or mifepristone, and stated that “the doctors I have consulted with feel this provision will not harm healthcare for women.”

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