It takes two to tango…
Texas already had the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S.—and they just got tougher. A new law is now in effect that adds penalties of jail time and a fine of up to $10,000 for anyone who prescribes pills for medication abortions through telehealth or the mail.
Texas bans all abortions after cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo, which typically occurs about six weeks into pregnancy—often before people [sic: women] realize they’re pregnant. Medication abortions via telehealth or mail were already illegal in Texas, and the new criminal penalties took effect on the day the Supreme Court heard arguments in a Mississippi case that ultimately could overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion.
In contrast to a surgical abortion, which usually takes place in a clinic, a medication abortion involves two pills, taken 48 hours apart, that manipulate the hormones to end a pregnancy. Many people [sic] prefer this process early in a pregnancy because the pills can be taken at home. The Food and Drug Administration approved the drugs in 2000, and the procedure is effective up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy.
Texas’ new law, known as SB 4, also narrows the legal window for medication abortion to the first seven weeks of pregnancy. State legislators passed this new law on Sept. 17 during a special session—more than two weeks after the other abortion law, often called the “six-week ban,” took effect on September 1. Attempts to halt that law as groups challenge it in court have failed.
Anti-abortion groups in Texas hailed SB 4 as a victory—an important second step, after the six-week ban, in their efforts to curtail all access to the procedure in the state. John Seago, legislative director for Texas Right to Life, said his group wanted to ensure that law enforcement officials could prosecute people who skirt the state’s strict limits by administering medication abortions. “This is going to be a future public policy issue around abortion, no matter what happens to Roe v. Wade,” he said.
So far, no lawsuit has challenged Texas’ law restricting access to abortion pills. Mounting a legal challenge to halt the law is complicated because Texans already are effectively prohibited from all abortions after six weeks.
“We already have the most extreme abortion ban in the U.S. and yet our legislature made it a priority to add this additional abortion restriction,” said Sarah Wheat, chief external affairs officer with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas…. “Ultimately,” Wheat said, “Texas’ latest law is a sign of what could happen elsewhere.” She said it shows there is no end to efforts aimed at making abortions harder to get.
This year alone, five other states have passed laws against sending abortion pills through the mail. “Take note of Texas, because what you see is that our politicians, they do not quit…”
The ACLU reports that 1 in 3 women have an unintended pregnancy before the age of 35.
P.S. SB 4 is not sufficiently useful for a lookup. Try another tracker for more info. — Nan
This story is part of a partnership that includes KUT, NPR and KHN. KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation. Also quoted is Scientific American author, Ashley Lopez .