A new Louisiana bill is awaiting final approval from the state House that would categorize abortion-inducing drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, as Schedule IV “controlled and dangerous substances,” which regulates depressants, opioids and other highly addictive drugs.

The amended bill will put those found in possession of the pills without a valid prescription, except for healthcare providers, at risk of incarceration and fines. An added provision to the bill will criminalize “coerced abortions,” where pregnant women are given abortion pills without their consent.

Under the bill, a woman obtaining the drugs “for her own consumption” would not face punishment. However, other people, aside from healthcare practitioners, would risk prosecution.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Thomas Pressly (R), worked closely with Louisiana’s Right to Life group to draft the bill. In a statement released by his office, Pressly said that he hopes to “control the rampant illegal distribution of abortion-inducing drugs” in Louisana.

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Pressly added that abortion medication “is frequently abused and is a risk to the health of citizens” and that the bill “will assist law enforcement in protecting vulnerable women and unborn babies.”

Pressly’s motivations behind this bill are also deeply personal. In April, his sister, Catherine Pressly Herring, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, explaining how, in 2022, her then-husband surreptitiously slipped an abortion bill in her water after she recently announced that she was pregnant with their third child.

While doctors were able to stop the process so that her pregnancy could continue, her husband was sentenced to 180 days in jail. Under the new bill, a perpetrator of this nature would face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $75,000 fine.

While many find Herring’s story deeply unsettling, over 240 Lousinana doctors and healthcare professionals have voiced their concerns about the new bill, citing the many other critical uses of these drugs.

In a letter sent last week to Pressly, doctors discussed how misoprostol can be used to prevent gastrointestinal ulcers and is used as a treatment for miscarriages, helping postpartum hemorrhage, a leading cause of maternal mortality in Louisiana.

“Adding a safe, medically indicated drug for miscarriage management … creates the false perception that these are dangerous drugs that require additional regulation,” wrote the doctors in the letter.

They added, “Neither mifepristone nor misoprostol have been shown to have any potential for abuse, dependence, public health risk, nor high rates of adverse side effects.”

In response, Zagorski explained, “The use of these drugs for legitimate healthcare needs will still be available, just like all other controlled substances are still available for legitimate uses.”

The state House will vote on the bill until June 3 before sending it to Republican Gov. Jeff Landry for final approval.  

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