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Just weeks after a near-total ban on abortion went into effect in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott ceremonially signed a separate bill into law on Friday that will restrict Texans’ access to abortion-inducing medication.
The new law — which would narrow the window in which physicians are allowed to give abortion-inducing medication to patients from 10 weeks to seven weeks into a pregnancy — represents a doubling down by state elected officials on abortion policies that are now among the strictest in the country.
The three-week reduction also bucks previous Texas law and U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, which state that abortion-inducing medications are safe to administer to patients up to 10 weeks post-conception.
The bill was officially signed on Sept. 17. It will go into effect Dec. 2.
“What today is a celebration. It’s a celebration of Texas values, and what we do to support those Texas values,” Abbott said in remarks at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin.
“I think it’s clear that the most important freedom of all, obviously, is the right to life,” Abbott added. “And even as we can all understand the imperative of the right to life, there are still millions of children who lose their lives to abortion, every single year. We in Texas will not accept that.”
Earlier this month, a law went into effect that bans abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy, including in cases of rape and incest. Medical experts have called this law a near-total ban on abortions, since many patients do not know they are pregnant at that point.
Texas abortion providers filed an emergency request to the U.S. Supreme Court to attempt to prevent enforcement of the law. However, in a 5-4 decision, the justices refused to block the Texas law and instead allowed it to take effect while a lower court decides whether it’s legal.
The bill that Abbott signed Friday limiting the access to abortion-inducing medication was challenged by Texas Democrats over a dozen times through amendments on the House floor, all of which failed to pass.
State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, questioned the science behind the law and called it political.
“The abortion-related mortality rate is lower than that of colonoscopies, plastic surgeries, dental procedures and adult tonsillectomies,” Howard said. “Abortion is much safer than carrying a pregnancy to term and giving birth. A first-trimester abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, with a less than 0.05% chance of major complications.”
The new law will also prohibit mailing abortion-inducing drugs. In April, the Biden administration temporarily allowed the medication to be mailed when in-person visits were not always possible due to the pandemic.
“The Biden administration temporarily lifted restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs, allowing them to be delivered by the mail during the pandemic. There was an effort to make that permanent. We will not allow that in the Lone Star State,” Abbott said.
Abortion-inducing medication has increasingly become the most common method to terminate a pregnancy, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research institute that supports abortion.
The new law singles out two popular drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. Violations of the law are a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of $10,000.
State Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, called the passage of Senate Bill 4 the “icing on the cake” of a legislative session that has now passed three bills championed by abortion opponents. The third was a bill that would outlaw abortion completely in Texas if the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision is overturned.
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Correction, Sept. 29, 2021: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the new Texas abortion law bans abortions as early as six weeks after conception and that the new abortion medication law reduces the window for when they can be prescribed from 10 weeks to seven weeks after conception. The first law bans abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy and the second law reduces the window for prescribing abortion medications from 10 weeks to 7 weeks into a pregnancy.