A bill that would restrict the abortion pill to the first seven weeks’ gestation has cleared both houses of the Texas legislature and now heads to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk. The bill passed just a day before Texas’ Heartbeat Act, SB 8, went into effect. And on the same day, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its 5-4 decision to allow the Act to stand, for now.
Senate Bill 4, introduced by Democratic state Senator Eddie Lucio, cleared the Texas House on August 31 by a vote of 82-41. The bill had previously cleared the Texas Senate by a margin of 19-10, as Live Action News reported.
SB 4 aims to codify safety protections surrounding the use of the abortion pill mifepristone. The bill limits the administration of the abortion pill to no later than seven weeks’ gestation (it is currently FDA approved for up to 10 weeks gestation), and it prohibits the prescription of the abortion pill by mail. The law requires physicians to provide a minimum standard of care to include: conducting an in-person examination to confirm the pregnancy; ruling out ectopic pregnancy; and determining the woman’s blood type and treat for Rh negativity, as well as to document any treatment. The physician must also schedule a follow up within 14 days to assess the woman’s health.
The initiative comes as abortion activists across the country have advocated for a loosening of the FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) protocol that requires the abortion pill to be administered by a certified prescriber in a medical setting. The REMS protocol, which has been in place since 2000, ensures women have access to an in-person medical assessment, and helps to rule out dangers like ectopic pregnancies that can potentially be fatal to the mother. In May, the Biden administration announced that it was reviewing the REMS protocol, as Live Action News reported.
Many abortion activists are also pushing for the dangerous practice of abortion pill by mail, which the Biden administration in April stated that it would allow for the duration of the pandemic. As Live Action News has noted, abortion pill complications are grossly underreported in the United States, and one study in Finland indicated that abortion pill complication rates are as much as four times higher than that of first trimester surgical abortion.
“I’m pleased to report that today, the Texas House gave final approval to my bill to ban the practice of providing abortion-inducing drugs by mail or delivery service,” said state Rep. Stephanie Klick, the bill’s House sponsor, on Facebook. “The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.”
According to the bill’s text, SB 4 is based on the premise that the “state has an interest in protecting the health and welfare of every woman considering a drug-induced abortion.” The bill’s opening section notes that “the use of Mifeprex or mifepristone presents significant medical complications including, but not limited to, uterine hemorrhage, viral infections, abdominal pain, cramping, vomiting, headache, fatigue, and pelvic inflammatory disease.”
Those who administer the abortion pill in violation of the law’s requirements are guilty of a state jail felony, but the law does not hold women seeking the abortion pill criminally liable for violating any of its provisions.
Abortion supporters condemned the decision. “I’m really tired of every single session, having to come here and debate one more obstacle to a woman having a right to choose what happens to her own body and her own destiny,” said state Rep. Donna Howard, according to the Texas Tribune. “There have always been abortions. There always will be abortions. And the best thing that we can do is No. 1: help people to not have unwanted pregnancies in the first place.”
But Rep. Klick stated she was motivated by the practice of out-of-state doctors taking advantage of the Biden administration’s policy to administer abortion pills by mail in Texas.
“As a nurse, I believe we had to act in order to go after these out of state individuals who are flagrantly violating Texas laws, and that is why I filed legislation to do so. With this action, Texas will codify the safety protocols needed to protect women – regardless of FDA action,” Rep. Klick said. “Thank you for the opportunity to serve you on the front lines in the battle to promote a culture of life that protects all Texans.”
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