Prescribing or mailing abortion drugs in Texas is now illegal, thanks to law entered into force on December 1.
Enforcement of the law will be difficult, however.
Abigail Aiken is Associate Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. She spoke to Texas Standard about the impact of the new measure. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: How Common Are Medically Induced Abortions in Texas and Nationwide?
Abigail Aiken: Well, medical abortion has become more and more common. It is a method of abortion that many people who are earlier in their pregnancy prefer. And it is something that can be done safely at home. In fact, in many states people can have telemedicine abortions. This is not the case here in Texas because of the laws of our states. But certainly, it is becoming more and more common. Truly. In recent years, we have seen a lot of restrictions on this type of abortion lifted.
For those who don’t know the process. From what I understand, patients need to take two tablets 24 to 48 hours apart to terminate a pregnancy. Is it correct
That’s right. There are two pills in the diet. The first called mifepristone is swallowed and the second, misoprostol, is a set of pills that are usually taken 24 hours later and placed under the tongue to dissolve.
Are there any significant side effects from using these two pills?
Well, we have decades of evidence now showing us that these are very, very safe and effective drugs. What you would expect would be bleeding during pregnancy followed by cramping and pain. And it will vary a lot depending on the individual. Some people may experience nausea or chills. It really varies from person to person. But in general, the main thing to know is that these drugs. We have ample evidence of their safety and effectiveness.
This new law, if I understand correctly, prohibits the sending of abortion pills. But if a doctor isn’t writing the prescription in Texas or practicing in Texas, how would the state go about suing someone who supplied these drugs across state lines?
As you mentioned, this bill really does two things. The first part, the restriction which [limits abortion after] seven weeks gestation, is intended for clinical and clinical providers. The FDA says a medical abortion can be performed up to 10 weeks gestation, so a three-week cancellation could be very substantial and prevent access if Senate Bill 8, the ban on abortion at about six weeks, is overturned by the Supreme Court. .
The second part of the bill is the ban on sending abortion pills by mail. And that’s really, I think, a reaction to the idea that when restrictions are put in place on clinic abortion, we know that people often manage their abortions on their own. This means that they will do their own abortions outside of formal health care. And one of the main ways to do that is to go online to find these medicated abortion pills and then they are mailed to the person’s home.
And I think the idea is that it would create a deterrent effect on anyone trying to mail abortion pills. So few people go through the mail. I have no idea how the state intends to enforce this. But I have a feeling they are trying to create that crippling effect by enacting a punishment that will try to deter people who might want to help other people in Texas.
Are there any particular suppliers that this bill appears to be targeting?
I think he’s trying to target those who help people get abortions outside of formal health care. Over the past decade or more, Texas has seen bill after bill bills aimed at clinic providers, aimed at shutting down clinics, aimed at overloading, intimidating or harassing clinic providers. And in response to these restrictions, people often take matters into their own hands and self-manage. I think it is a challenge for those who want to ban abortion and for lawmakers to try to stop this practice because it occurs outside the formal health system. So it’s an attempt to do that and stop one way someone could manage themselves, which is to get abortion pills in the mail. Although I have the impression that this bill will probably not change this practice.