Stricter Regulations Enacted for Abortion Pills

Louisiana's reclassification of Abortion Medication
Louisiana's reclassification of Abortion Medication. Credit | REUTERS

United States: Mifepristone and misoprostol, two medications used in medication abortion, are now considered controlled narcotics in Louisiana according to a measure signed into law by Republican governor Jeff Landry.

Louisiana’s Tightened Abortion Medication Controls

Which adds the drugs to Schedule IV of the state’s Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law—was approved by the Louisiana House last week. The bill was sent to Landry’s desk for his signing by the Senate, which did the same. Those who possess the medicine without a prescription run the risk of penalties and up to five years in jail due to its classification as a controlled hazardous substance. Pregnant individuals who own medications for personal use are exempt from the law.

Prior to the bill’s passing, Republican state senator Thomas Pressly said that it would aid in “controlling the rampant illegal distribution of abortion-inducing drugs.”

He continued, “We will help law enforcement protect vulnerable women and unborn babies by placing these drugs on the controlled substance list.”

Except in situations where a patient’s life is in jeopardy or the pregnancy is deemed “medically futile,” Louisiana currently prohibits surgical and medical abortions.

The first state to classify the medications as restricted substances is Louisiana.

What does this law do?

This law consists of crime “ coerced criminal abortion” to avoid a third party from intentionally using an abortion-inducing drug on an unsuspecting pregnant person without their knowledge or consent.

Additionally, it includes misoprostol and mifepristone as Schedule IV drugs, which are considered to have a “low potential” for abuse in comparison to Schedule I, II, or III drugs under current state legislation.

Stakeholder Reactions and Ethical Concerns

According to the law, unless the person is acting in the course of their professional practice or obtained with a valid prescription or order from a practitioner, it is “unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess a controlled dangerous substance classified in Schedule IV.” Additionally, it includes an exception for expectant mothers who own misoprostol or mifepristone for personal use.

If someone is not exempt from the rule, they could face fines of up to $5,000 or a maximum five years in jail, either with or without hard work.

Before the bill was passed, Republican state representative Julie Emerson stated that it “does not mean the doctors cannot prescribe this and administer this.” However, opponents of the measure claimed it might have a chilling effect on prescriptions for the drugs if physicians felt there were unanswered legal questions.

Concerns about the measures:

“Against the spirit of the drug scheduling system, which is designed to classify substances based upon their danger, potential for misuse, and medical benefit,” the Louisiana Society of Addiction Medicine said last week in reference to the measure.

Kamala Harris, the vice president, said on social media that the proposal is “absolutely unconscionable.”

“A bill that could result in several years in jail for possessing medication abortion has been passed by the Louisiana House,” the speaker stated. “To be clear, this was done by Donald Trump.”

“Leaving out the part about ‘not having a valid prescription’ & our efforts to protect expectant mothers from being slipped abortion meds by diabolical spouses,” Pressly retorted to Harris.

The proposal shouldn’t be contentious, according to the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America group.

The group’s Southern Regional Director, Caitlin Connors, released a statement saying, “Like morphine and Valium, the drugs in question will still be available for prescription for legitimate medical reasons – like miscarriage care – but will be harder for abusers to obtain.”

However, they caution that the action would chill physician confidence.

Professor Mary Ziegler of the UC Davis School of Law stated in an opinion post that “physicians and pharmacies dispense mifepristone and misoprostol for many other reasons besides abortion, from miscarriage management to the treatment of ulcers.” Many doctors are already reluctant to step in when a patient’s life or health is in danger due to the severely limited exceptions to abortion prohibitions in places like Louisiana. The new laws pertaining to misoprostol and mifepristone will create additional legal ambiguity, which might discourage physicians from taking action

According to The Associated Press, doctors will need a special license in order to give the medications, and some remote clinics may find it difficult to access the drug storage facilities.

This summer, the Supreme Court is anticipated to make a decision over the legality of the Food and Drug Administration’s recent expansion of mifepristone availability.

Democrats took note of the development since they are emphasizing reproductive rights in front of the 2024 election.

“If Louisiana is successful in enacting this harmful legislation, other states with Republican governors will do the same. Building Democratic strength in state legislatures is the only way to halt the Republican onslaught of attacks in Louisiana and around the nation. Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee National Press Secretary Sam Paisley said in the statement.