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Louisiana Legislature approves bill classifying abortion pills as controlled dangerous substances

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Louisiana Legislature approves bill classifying abortion pills as controlled dangerous substances


BATON ROUGE, La. — Two abortion-inducing drugs could soon be reclassified as controlled and dangerous substances in Louisiana under a first-of-its-kind bill that received final legislative passage Thursday and is expected to be signed into law by the governor.

Supporters of the reclassification of mifepristone and misoprostol, commonly known as “abortion pills,” say it would protect expectant mothers from coerced abortions. Numerous doctors, meanwhile, have said it will make it harder for them to prescribe the medicines that they use for other important reproductive health care needs, and could delay treatment.

Passage of the bill comes as both abortion rights advocates and abortion opponents await a final decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on an effort to restrict access to mifepristone. The justices did not appear ready to limit access to the drug on the day they heard arguments.

The GOP-dominated Legislature’s push to reclassify mifepristone and misoprostol could possibly open the door for other Republican states with abortion bans that are seeking tighter restrictions on the drugs. Louisiana currently has a near-total abortion ban in place, applying both to surgical and medical abortions.

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Current Louisiana law already requires a prescription for both drugs and makes it a crime to use them to induce an abortion in most cases. The bill would make it harder to obtain the pills by placing it on the list of Schedule IV drugs under the state’s Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.

The classification would require doctors to have a specific license to prescribe the drugs, which would be stored in certain facilities that in some cases could end up being located far from rural clinics. Knowingly possessing the drugs without a valid prescription would carry a punishment including hefty fines and jail time.

More than 200 doctors in the state signed a letter to lawmakers warning that it could produce a “barrier to physicians’ ease of prescribing appropriate treatment” and cause unnecessary fear and confusion among both patients and doctors. The physicians warn that any delay to obtaining the drugs could lead to worsening outcomes in a state that has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.

“This goes too far. We have not properly vetted this with the health care community and I believe it’s going to lead to further harm down the road,” said state Sen. Royce Duplessis, a Democrat who opposes the measure. “There’s a reason we rank at the bottom in terms of maternal health outcomes, and this is why.”

Supporters say people would be prevented from unlawfully using the pills, though language in the bill appears to carve out protections for pregnant woman who obtain the drug without a prescription for their own consumption.

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The reclassification of the two drugs in Louisiana is an amendment to a bill originating in the Senate that would create the crime of “coerced criminal abortion by means of fraud.” The sister of Republican state Sen. Thomas Pressly, who authored the bill, has shared her own story, of her husband slipping her abortion-inducing drugs without her knowledge or consent.

“The purpose of bringing this legislation is certainly not to prevent these drugs from being used for legitimate health care purposes,” Senator Pressley said. “I am simply trying to put safeguards and guardrails in place to keep bad actors from getting these medications.”

The Senate voted 29-7, mainly along party lines, to pass the legislation. In the 39-person Senate there are only five women, all of whom voted in favor of the bill.

In addition to inducing abortions, mifepristone and misoprostol have other common uses, such as treating miscarriages, inducing labor and stopping hemorrhaging.

Mifepristone was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000 after federal regulators deemed it safe and effective for ending early pregnancies. It’s used in combination with misoprostol, which the FDA has separately approved to treat stomach ulcers.

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The drugs are not classified as controlled substances by the federal government because regulators do not view them as carrying a significant risk of misuse. The federal Controlled Substances Act restricts the use and distribution of prescription medications such as opioids, amphetamines, sleeping aids and other drugs that carry the risk of addiction and overdose.

Abortion opponents and conservative Republicans both inside and outside the state have applauded the Louisiana bill. Conversely, the move has been strongly criticized by Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who in a social media post described it as “absolutely unconscionable.”

The Louisiana legislation now heads to the desk of conservative Republican Gov. Jeff Landry. The governor, who was backed by former President Donald Trump during last year’s gubernatorial election, has indicated his support for the measure, remarking in a recent post on X, “You know you’re doing something right when @KamalaHarris criticizes you.”

Landry’s office did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

A recent survey found that thousands of women in states with abortion bans or restrictions are receiving abortion pills in the mail from states that have laws protecting prescribers. The survey did not specify how many of those cases were in Louisiana.

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Louisiana has a near-total abortion ban in place, which applies both to medical and surgical abortions. The only exceptions to the ban are if there is substantial risk of death or impairment to the mother if she continues the pregnancy or in the case of “medically futile” pregnancies, when the fetus has a fatal abnormality.

Currently, 14 states are enforcing bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with limited exceptions.

Copyright © 2024 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.



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Louisiana

Lawsuits expected over Louisiana’s Ten Commandments law

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Lawsuits expected over Louisiana’s Ten Commandments law


NEW ORLEANS (WVUE)—A new Louisiana law requiring public schools to display the Ten Commandments is fueling debate inside the state and around the country, with promises of legal challenges.

Governor Jeff Landry, a Republican, signed House Bill 71 into law this week, but the ACLU of Louisiana plans to sue Landry in federal court over the new law, citing constitutional grounds.

“When children have the Ten Commandments, which are a very sacred Judeo-Christian text within the context of the classroom, we’re certainly suggesting to them, if not, in fact, even endorsing a particular religion in the classroom, and that we find to be violative of both the Constitution and the First Amendment,” said Alanah Odoms, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana.

However, Christian conservatives and others who support the new law strongly support the requirement.

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“We’re certainly, at [La.] Family Forum, excited about the possibility of reintroducing authentic history and a little bit of Western civilization in the education system. So, we think it’s a positive move in the right direction, and done appropriately, will have positive effects,” said Gene Mills, President of Louisiana Family Forum.

Odoms said two clauses in the U.S. Constitution apply to problems with the new law.

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“The first is called the free exercise of religion clause and that means that each person has the opportunity and the right to be able to decide what faith they will be, and they also have the opportunity to decide whether they will have a faith at all,” Odoms said. “And so, that actually works in conjunction with another really important clause in the First Amendment called the establishment clause.”

Further, she said, “The government cannot select or prefer one religion over another, and cannot prefer religion over a non-religion. So, it can’t proselytize. it can’t coerce people to choose a certain faith and so what we find with HB 71 is that it actually violates both clauses, the free exercise clause and the establishment clause of the first amendment.”

Mills said in response, “I disagree. I would follow up with a question that’s not a rhetorical question, which religion does it impose?”

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Some argue that if opponents do not prevail in court against the new law, it could allow those of other faiths to demand that tenets of their religion be posted in Louisiana’s public school classrooms.

“I think people certainly could make an argument that in order to ensure that the government is not favoring one religion over another, that other religious ideas and other religious texts, perhaps should also be in the classroom,” Odoms said. “But I think the more important thing to think about is the fact that there’s 40 years of longstanding precedent in this country, which was articulated in a case called Stone versus Graham, that says that you cannot pass a law that has a non-secular purpose or a religious purpose. and you cannot essentially validate the government choosing a religion, one religion over another.”

Mills believes the law will withstand legal challenges.

“My sense is this is going to withstand constitutional challenge because it was written in such a way to reflect both the secular and the historical context that the Decalogue has had in both America’s foundation and in Western civilization. There is no censorship, there’s no forced religion, there is no imposing, there’s no public expenses. This is done at not a taxpayer dollar, but with resources that are found outside of taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Decalogue is another term for the Ten Commandments.

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Odoms said, “And if we mandate that children go to school, we also have to be really careful that the government is not mandating a certain religion.”

Louisiana Republican Attorney General Liz Murrill issued the following statement:

The 10 Commandments are pretty simple (don’t kill, steal, cheat on your wife), but they also are important to our country’s foundations. Moses, who you may recall brought the 10 Commandments down from Mount Sinai, appears eight times in carvings that ring the United States Supreme Court Great Hall ceiling. I look forward to defending the law.”

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Louisiana Ten Commandments Law Couldn’t Have Happened Without Trump

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Louisiana Ten Commandments Law Couldn’t Have Happened Without Trump


This article is part of The D.C. Brief, TIME’s politics newsletter. Sign up here to get stories like this sent to your inbox.

Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry knew the score when he signed into law a requirement that every classroom in his state—from kindergarten classrooms to college chemistry labs—must post a copy of the Ten Commandments. In fact, the ambitious Republican seemed to be trolling his critics even before he sanctified the work of the GOP-controlled legislature.

“I’m going home to sign a bill that places the Ten Commandments in public classrooms,” he said Saturday night as he headlined a Republican Party fundraiser in Nashville. “And I can’t wait to be sued.”

Lawsuits were at the ready as soon as Landry signed the bill on Wednesday. It is abundantly clear this effort seems on a glide path toward the Supreme Court, which for decades has ruled such expressions of faith collide fatally with the First Amendment’s prohibition from state-sanctioned faith. But given the new tilt of the bench, conservatives’ credo might be reduced to a simple profession: In Trump They Trust.

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That’s right. Donald Trump has been out of official power since early 2021 but his presence continues to be felt at every level of government. His legacy is most firmly established through his three picks to the Supreme Court, part of the record-breaking 231 federal judges Trump successfully nominated to federal roles. The Trump cohort of judges—mostly young conservatives with a bent to treat the roles as political callings rather than academic exercises—stand to shape American jurisprudence for a generation. And the Supreme Court is the most obvious and impactful of any of those levels thanks to 56-year-old Neil Gorsuch, 59-year-old Brett Kavanaugh, and 52-year-old Amy Coney Barrett.

That Trumpian trio is why Louisiana’s governor sounded so excited about being sued. While the Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that a similar Kentucky law was unconstitutional, a majority of the current justices may see things differently. They’ve already shown an openness to the Christian conservatives’ argument that faith and government can co-exist if not thrive in a symbiotic relationship. Notably, in 2022, Justices sided with a high school coach who argued his players had the right to pray at the 50-yard line and that Maine could not block religious schools from receiving a state subsidy. A year earlier, in a unanimous ruling, the Court said a Catholic group in Philadelphia could refuse to work with same-sex couples on fostering children.

By one study’s count, parties arguing on the basis of so-called religious liberty found success four out of five times. That’s no accident on a bench stacked by Trump with the explicit call to arms to blend religion—specifically, Christianity—with the rule of law.

This, in no small measure, helps to explain how self-described Values Voters have fallen into line behind the less-than-pious Trump and his bid to return to power in this November’s election. A Pew Research Institute study finds 43% of Trump supporters think government policies should support religious values, and 69% who say the Bible should influence U.S. laws. A second Pew study finds Trump riding high among white Evangelical protestants by a 2-to-1 margin.

While the Ten Commandments are important pieces of Jewish and Christian teachings and compatible with Islam, the play in Louisiana—and elsewhere, to be clear—have clear linkages to the current Republican Party’s courtship of Christian conservatives, especially white Christian nationalists. That first Pew survey found 22% of Trump supporters say the government should declare Christianity the official national religion and 59% who say the government should promote Christian morality.

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So while Trump is out of sanctioned power—at least for the moment—there is still no credible way to argue that he’s without tremendous sway over the Republican Party and the laws it is passing.  Louisiana may be the first test case of these omnipresent reminders of religious teachings, but it most certainly will not be the last. The current political environment is one that rewards such audacious acts, and it’s no accident that Landry chose to taunt his critics while signaling his national ambitions during a dinner more than 500 miles from home. For any GOP politician looking to make inroads with the party’s conservative Christian base—be it a first-term Governor or a convicted ex-President—pandering like this works to build lists, credibility, and fundraising tallies. If secular voters—or even those who think the place for expressions of faith are better served in a sanctuary than a Nashville convention hall—stopped rewarding such trolling, perhaps the sanctimonious performance art would stop. One can only pray.

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Schools in Louisiana must display Bible's 10 Commandments

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Schools in Louisiana must display Bible's 10 Commandments


A new law in Louisiana requires every state school classroom to display the Bible’s 10 Commandments.

Jeff Landry, the Governor of the ultraconservative southern US state, signed the law on Wednesday in a move that has reignited the debate over separation of church and state.

“If you want to respect the rule of law, you’ve got to start from the original law given – which was Moses,” said Mr Landry, referring to the figure who, according to the Bible’s Old Testament, received the directives from God.

The legislation, the first of its kind in the US, mandates that the biblical text be on display starting in 2025 in all public classrooms from kindergarten to state-funded universities.

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The law requires the 10 Commandments to be displayed as a poster or framed document “and shall be printed in a large, easily readable font”, the bill’s text reads.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) responded to the legislation by indicating it would take the case to court.

“The law violates the separation of church and state and is blatantly unconstitutional,” the organisation said in a statement.

The First Amendment of the US Constitution forbids the establishment of a national religion or the preference of one religion over another.

Louisiana’s controversial new law, in a state deep within the US “Bible Belt”, comes during a new era of conservative leadership under Mr Landry.

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Republicans hold a supermajority in the legislature, as well as every statewide elected position, paving the way for lawmakers to push through a conservative agenda.

Updated: June 20, 2024, 1:44 PM



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