Lawmakers react to Louisiana house criminalizing abortion pills

May 22, 2024

Hours after the Louisiana House voted Tuesday to criminalize the possession of mifepristone and misoprostol without a prescription, lawmakers reacted to the vote, some expressing anger while others celebrated the legislation.

The unprecedented legislation is the first time a state has declared abortion drugs as controlled substances. The two drugs are used to induce a medicated abortion.

The state House passed the bill by a vote of 64 yeas and 29 nays, and it now heads back to the state Senate for a concurring vote. It would then head to Gov. Jeff Landry’s (R) desk, who is expected to sign it.

Vice President Kamala Harris posted on social media platform X responding to the vote, saying it’s “absolutely unconscionable.”

“The Louisiana House just passed a bill that would criminalize the possession of medication abortion, with penalties of up to several years of jail time,” she wrote. “Let’s be clear: Donald Trump did this.”

State Sen. Thomas Pressly (R), who sponsored the bill, posted in response to Harris’ comment, saying it’s unconscionable for her to lie about his legislation, which began after his sister was unknowingly given the medication.

“Leaving out the part about ‘not having a valid prescription’ & our efforts to protect expectant mothers from being slipped abortion meds by diabolical spouses, that’s kind of a big omission. Do better,” Pressly posted.

Democrat Rep. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) said he was “disgusted” by the vote. He said he introduced legislation attempting to protect mifepristone and women’s right to choose “across the country, like we do here in NJ.”

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) also released a statement following the vote, admonishing the Republicans who passed it.

“If Louisiana is successful in passing this dangerous bill into law, other Republican-led states will follow. The only way to stop this onslaught of Republican attacks in Louisiana and across the country is by making a concerted effort to build Democratic power in state legislatures,” DLCC National Press Secretary Sam Paisely said in a statement.

While the measure is unpopular with pro-choice Democrats, pro-life groups celebrated the vote. The Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America group released a statement saying the legislation should not be controversial.

“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,” the group’s Southern Regional Director Caitlin Connors said in the statement.

Attorney General Liz Murrill (R) said in a thread on X that she supports the legislation because the drugs are increasingly being shipped from outside Louisiana.

The Louisiana Right to Life group posted online that it is proud of the state Legislature for their support of the bill “and their advocacy for the health and safety of women & girls.”

Surgical and medication abortion is already banned in Louisiana except to save a patient’s life or if the pregnancy is “medically futile.” Abortion pills are illegal to get through the mail in state, but laws in other states allow doctors to continue prescribing and sending the drugs through an online telehealth option.

The amendment makes it a crime for anyone who doesn’t have a prescription or is a licensed provider to possess the drugs. People could face up to five years in prison.