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In the same week as one of the strictest abortion laws in the country went into effect in Texas, the state Legislature passed another bill that would restrict the procedure during the first term of pregnancy.
Senate Bill 4 remains identical to the version of the bill passed by the Texas Senate. Texas Democrats were unable to attach amendments to the bill, despite more than a dozen attempts, which means the bill will head straight to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.
The legislation would limit patients’ access to abortion-inducing pills, preventing physicians or providers from giving abortion-inducing medication to patients who are more than seven weeks pregnant. Current law allows practitioners to give these pills to patients who are up to 10 weeks pregnant.
Notably, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration set its guidelines in 2016 advising that abortion-inducing pills are safe to use up to 70 days, or 10 weeks, after initial conception.
These pills have increasingly become the most common method for women to terminate a pregnancy if they are aware of their pregnancy early enough. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research institute that supports abortion rights, 60% of women elect to take a pill over having surgery.
In an impassioned speech, Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, slammed the Legislature for continuously passing laws restricting access to abortion.
“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,” Howard said.
“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.”
On Wednesday, another bill banning abortions after six weeks, including in cases of rape and incest, went into effect in Texas. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to block that abortion ban after an emergency request was to prevent the enforcement of the legislation.
The Court, in a 5-4 decision, outlined that its refusal to hear this particular claim did not mean the Texas law was constitutional. The six-week abortion ban can be revisited when another “procedurally proper challenge” is presented to the court.
“In reaching this conclusion, we stress that we do not purport to resolve definitively any jurisdictional or substantive claim in the applicants’ lawsuit,” the opinion read. “In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts.”
SB 4, will also ban abortion-inducing pills from being mailed in Texas. The Biden administration, last April, temporarily allowed the medication to be mailed due to the coronavirus when in-person doctor visits were not always possible or advised.
Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, said this measure was necessary because the FDA could make the change allowing mailing pills permanent.
“What we see in this bill are outdated medical recommendations being codified and access to medications being rolled back,” Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood, said. “I hope in the future we will move forward on issues of women’s safety guided by evidence.”
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