Louisiana lawmakers advance bill to reclassify abortion drugs, worrying doctors

Louisiana lawmakers have advanced a bill that would reclassify two abortion-inducing drugs, making it a crime to possess without a prescription

Sara Cline
Wednesday 22 May 2024 00:37 BST
Abortion Pills Louisiana
Abortion Pills Louisiana (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Louisiana lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a bill that would make it a crime to possess two abortion-inducing drugs without a prescription, a move that doctors fear could prevent them from adequately treating their patients in a timely manner.

Under the bill, which aims to reclassify mifepristone and misoprostol, pregnant patients would still be able to possess the drugs with a valid prescription. Regardless, more than 200 doctors signed a letter to lawmakers saying the measure could produce a “barrier to physicians’ ease of prescribing appropriate treatment” and cause unnecessary fear and confusion among both patients and doctors. The bill heads to the Senate next.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone in 2000 to end pregnancy, when used in combination with misoprostol. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in March on behalf of doctors who oppose abortion and want to restrict access to mifepristone. The justices did not appear ready to limit access to the pill, however.

The reclassification of the two drugs in Louisiana is an amendment to a bill originating in the Senate that would create the crime of “coerced criminal abortion by means of fraud," prohibiting a person from knowingly using medications to cause or attempt to cause an abortion without the pregnant person's knowledge or consent. The bill as amended must now return to the Senate. Specifically, the amendment aims to label the medications as Schedule IV drugs under the state’s Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.

The bill, with the amendment, passed in Louisiana’s GOP-controlled House, 66-30.

Louisiana has a near-total abortion ban in place, which applies both to medical and surgical abortions. The only exceptions to the ban are if there is substantial risk of death or impairment to the mother if she continues the pregnancy or in the case of “medically futile” pregnancies — when the fetus has a fatal abnormality.

Currently, 14 states are enforcing bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with limited exceptions.

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