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Louisiana abortion drug bill latest front in post-Dobbs fight

Sandhya Raman, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

The Louisiana Legislature is close to passing legislation that would classify two drugs used in medication abortion and miscarriage management as “controlled dangerous substances” — a move that has prompted outcry from the Biden campaign and that experts say could have complicated downstream effects.

No state currently classifies either mifepristone and misoprostol as a controlled substance, which includes both illegal drugs as well as certain medications that are subject to tracking and monitoring to prevent misuse and diversion. If Louisiana is successful, it could provide a blueprint for other state legislatures seeking to restrict abortions.

The state Senate passed a version of the bill last month. It was amended in the House to include language labeling the medications as Schedule IV drugs and now must go back to the Senate before it goes to Gov. Jeff Landry, who is expected to sign the bill.

The measure also has the support of Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill. Both Landry and Murrill are Republicans.

Louisiana state law already prohibits most abortions except in life-threatening situations, but the two drugs are still prescribed for other purposes in the state, including for the treatment of postpartum hemorrhage or ulcers.

Originally, the bill, Senate Bill 276, would penalize individuals who attempt to give a pregnant woman the drugs without her consent. But the Louisiana House amended the bill Tuesday to make possession of these drugs without a prescription subject to a penalty of five to 10 years of jail time and/or a fine of $10,000 to $75,000.

 

The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration typically determine which substances are classified as controlled substances because of their likelihood to be abused, how addictive they are and if they have any medical use.

The bill would list mifepristone and misoprostol as Schedule IV drugs. Schedule IV drugs include substances with a medical use that have a low likelihood to be abused but whose use may cause a physical or psychological dependence. The category includes drugs like diazepam, sold under the brand name Valium and used to treat anxiety or seizures, and eszopiclone, sold under the name Lunesta and used to treat insomnia.

States can also schedule drugs, and in some cases will implement tougher regulations for some drugs than at the federal level. This also enables the state to track which providers are prescribing the drugs and which patients are receiving them through what are known as prescription drug monitoring programs.

Proponents of the legislation, like SBA Pro-Life America Southern Regional Director Caitlin Connors, said the reclassification of the two drugs should be “uncontroversial.”

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