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A new law limiting the use of abortion drugs in Texas comes into effect Thursday.
The law makes it a crime to provide the drug after seven weeks of pregnancy, putting Texas at odds with federal regulations. It is also a crime to send the drug in the mail.
Medical abortion is the most common way for women in Texas to terminate their pregnancy, according to state data.
These new restrictions reflect growing concern among abortion opponents about the rise of âself-administeredâ abortions, in which pregnant women obtain drugs from foreign or international providers, with or without a prescription.
There are evidence that more women turn to self-administered abortions when legal abortion is limited. Texans have been unable to access abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy since September 1, when a controversial new ban went into effect.
âTexas is looking at ways people get around restrictions and is trying to make this as dangerous and scary as possible for people to deter them,â said Farah Diaz-Tello, senior legal counsel for If / When / How, a legal group for reproductive justice.
Diaz-Tello and other advocates fear the new criminal penalties will cause pregnant Texans to fear seeking medical attention after self-administered abortion.
What is a medical abortion?
For a medical abortion, a pregnant patient takes two different drugs, 24 to 48 hours apart, to induce an abortion.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has determined that a pregnant person can use these drugs for up to 70 days after their last menstrual cycle, or roughly during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. But the FDA requires the drug to be dispensed directly from a health care provider, rather than at a pharmacy.
Even before this new law, Texas had already imposed additional restrictions on access to abortion drugs. Texas is one of at least 19 states that prohibit patients from using an online doctor’s visit to obtain abortion-inducing drugs, according to The Kaiser Family Foundation. Instead, the state requires that these drugs be prescribed in person by a doctor.
In this new law, Texas lists 27 different potential complications resulting from the use of this two-drug regimen, ranging from incomplete abortion and death of the patient to complications of future pregnancies.
However, although there is some risk with any medical procedure, several long-term studies have shown that medical abortion is. very effective in terminating pregnancy and few patients experience significant side effects.
According to data from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, medical abortion was the most common method of abortion in Texas, accounting for 53% of all terminated pregnancies in 2020.
Advocates of abortion claim that patients choose medical abortion for a variety of reasons, including because it is less invasive than surgery. Patients can also take the second medication, which can induce miscarriage-like symptoms, wherever it is safest for them to do so.
âMedical abortion really helps people find the best time and setting for them,â said Dyana Limon-Mercado, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes. âThere are all different reasons. There are people who may have unfortunately been sexually assaulted, and for them, being able to have more control over the procedure … seems safer to them.
Medical abortion is different from emergency contraception, commonly known as the âmorning after pillâ. Taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy. It does not induce an abortion and is not effective if the patient is already pregnant.
International out-of-state suppliers circumvent restrictions
The new Texas law also states that no one can provide abortion medication “by mail, delivery, or postal service.”
Texas already required the drug to be provided by a doctor in person. But this specific clause responds to a growing concern among abortion opponents that patients are trying to bypass the required medical examination by obtaining the drugs by mail, especially with new state restrictions that ban abortions after approximately. six weeks.
Referred to as âself-administered abortion,â this typically involves ordering abortion-inducing drugs, with or without a prescription, from doctors, pharmacies, and other out-of-state or overseas providers online.
The FDA tried to crack down on certain suppliers, including AidAccess, a group founded in 2018 by Dr Rebecca Gomperts, a European doctor. AidAccess provides drugs for inducing abortion to women in areas who have restricted access to the procedure.
Gomperts said she would continue to prescribe to patients in Texas. She told CBS News in September that she thinks she has a solid legal foundation since it is legal to prescribe this drug where she is based.
Texas Right to Life legislative director John Seago has said he hopes this new law is just the start of the state’s efforts to curb both online and out-of-state providers.
âWe see this as the future of the pro-life fight that is going to unfoldâ¦ even after Roe or even after states are able to pass very strict pro-life laws,â Seago said. âI don’t think we have all the political tools on the table to properly regulate this issue. “
Disclosure: Planned Parenthood and the Texas Department of Health and Human Services financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list of them here.