Louisiana House Votes To Jail People For Possessing Abortion Pills

The Louisiana state House voted Tuesday to add two common medications used for abortions to the state’s list of controlled, dangerous substances despite widespread evidence they’re perfectly safe and effective.

The medications in question, mifepristone and misoprostol, are already illegal to use for abortions in Louisiana, where the procedure has been completely outlawed since the fall of Roe v. Wade in 2022. But the legislation the House passed Tuesday would make possession of the medications without a valid prescription punishable by up to five years in prison ― even though they have uses beyond inducing abortion.

The first-of-its-kind proposal, which passed 64-29, now goes to the state’s Republican-controlled Senate. If it passes there, it will move on to Gov. Jeff Landry (R), who is expected to sign it.

The drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and are the most common method of terminating pregnancy. In 2023, the Guttmacher Institute found the medications accounted for 63% of all abortions in the United States ― up 10% from 2020. Since its FDA approval in 2000, mifepristone ― the first of the two drugs taken to terminate a pregnancy ― has been used more than 5 million times, with fewer than 0.5% of users experiencing “serious adverse reactions.”

The Louisiana state House voted to add Mifepristone and Misoprostol pills to the state’s list of controlled, dangerous substances.
The Louisiana state House voted to add Mifepristone and Misoprostol pills to the state’s list of controlled, dangerous substances.

Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Democrats blasted the bill’s progress Tuesday.

“Louisiana Republicans already have a dangerous total abortion ban on the books that could threaten IVF access, and now they’re threatening jail time for simply possessing medication abortion pills,” Sam Paisley, press secretary for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said in a statement, calling the idea “outrageous.”

Voters should anticipate a Louisiana law like this being influential in other red states.

“If Louisiana is successful in passing this dangerous bill into law, other Republican-led states will follow,” she warned.

The House’s passage of the bill is “absolutely unconscionable,” Vice President Kamala Harris posted on social media.

Despite the drug’s widespread use, the bill’s author, Sen. Thomas Pressly (R), cited an exceptional situation in his reasoning for bringing it to the floor. Speaking on Pressly’s behalf at Tuesday’s vote, state Rep. Julie Emerson (R) recounted how Pressly’s niece “was poisoned by her former husband” when he “crushed up the abortion inducing drug misoprostol and put it in her water with the intent of aborting their unborn child.”

Emerson continued: “So what this bill is going to do is, it’s going to make sure that our laws can hold accountable those individuals who are using deception to harm women and unborn children.”

Covertly drugging someone is already a punishable offense.

Democrat state Rep. Mandie Landry (no relation to Gov. Landry) argued against the bill Tuesday, saying the sudden need to treat the drugs as dangerous substances is absurd.

“These prescriptions have been used for a really long time, and they’re used probably thousands of times per day in this country. Nothing about this has changed, but the politics of this has changed,” she said ahead of the vote.

Furthermore, she noted, the drugs have numerous other medical uses that have nothing to do with abortion.

“This is used for ulcers, miscarriage. It’s to induce labor. It’s postpartum hemorrhaging. If you get an IUD, it might help with that,” she listed.

Classifying drugs under the state’s Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law also requires them to be addictive, she noted ― something mifepristone and misoprostol are certainly not.

“Nothing has changed to make these drugs addictive,” she said. “You cannot be addicted to misoprostol unless you get pregnant once a month, I guess.”

The Louisiana bill comes as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs a case that could severely scale back access to mifepristone. However, a majority of justices appeared skeptical of the lawsuit’s merits when they heard the case in March. The court is expected to release its ruling as early as June.

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