National News

Louisiana Gov. Signs Into Law Bill Listing Abortion Pills as Controlled Dangerous Substances

A box containing a mifepristone tablet is pictured in a 2023 photo. (Photo: OSV News/Callaghan O’Hare, Reuters)

WASHINGTON — The day after Louisiana legislators sent a measure to  Republican Governor Jeff Landry to classify the abortion-inducing drugs mifepristone and misoprostol as controlled dangerous substances, the Louisiana governor signed it into law.

His May 24 signature means that possession of these drugs without a prescription could lead to fines or jail time. It also makes Louisiana the first state in the country to label abortion pills with this classification.

State senators passed the legislation May 23 with a 29-7 vote. Just two days before, the House approved the measure with a 64-29 vote. 

The new law will take effect on Oct. 1.

Louisiana Right to Life applauded the governor for signing the measure. Sarah Zagorski, the group’s communications director, said in a statement that the law will “stop abortion-inducing drugs from getting into the hands of predators and minors.” 

“We know that the abortion pill crisis is rampant in Louisiana,” she added.

Zagorski also thanked the Senate bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Thomas Pressly, “for his courageous persistence” in pushing this bill “despite numerous attacks from abortion proponents who mischaracterized his legislation.” 

She also stressed that the new law would “not stop physicians from prescribing these medications for legitimate health purposes nor will it criminalize a pregnant woman taking the abortion pill.”

The state’s legislators had added the amendment on the abortion drugs to a previous Senate bill that would make it a crime to give the abortion medication to someone without their consent.

Pressly said he proposed the measure after his sister was given misoprostol two years ago without her knowledge by her husband at the time.

In a statement, he said he was seeking to “control the rampant illegal distribution of abortion-inducing drugs” in the state, adding that abortion medication “is frequently abused and is a risk to the health of citizens.”

The measure makes it a felony with fines of up to $5,000 and a possible five-year prison sentence for anyone found in possession of the abortion inducing drugs without a valid prescription.

It places mifepristone and misoprostol under the state’s Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law that regulates depressants, opioids, and other potentially addicted drugs.

The two drugs are usually used in conjunction to end a pregnancy, although misoprostol could be used alone for an abortion. Medicated abortions now account for 63% of abortions in the U.S., according to the Guttmacher Institute, which conducts research on abortion and reproductive health.

A group of more than 200 doctors in the state wrote a letter to Pressly objecting to the measure they said was not “scientifically based” and also pointed out that misoprostol can also be used to prevent gastrointestinal ulcers and to aid in labor and delivery.

Louisiana law currently bans all abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest.

The state lawmakers’ discussion of the abortion medication coincided with the Supreme Court’s review of potentially limiting public access to mifepristone after it heard oral arguments about its availability in late March. This was the first abortion case before the court since the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago.

Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have been vocal in their opposition to the mifepristone since it was first given FDA approval in 2000. They echoed objections in 2016 when the FDA relaxed rules for its use, saying it could be administered with fewer visits to a doctor, and they also objected earlier this year when the FDA announced it was allowing some retail pharmacies to distribute the drug.

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued a statement the day of oral arguments saying: “With dangerous abortion drugs now making up the majority of abortions and increasing in use, we pray that the Supreme Court will restore the Food and Drug Administration’s safeguards for the health of women and protect more preborn children.”

The Supreme Court’s decision on mifepristone’s availability is expected by the end of June.