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A woman looks at a pill used for medication abortions, displayed on a phone.

A woman looks at a pill used for medication abortion, displayed on a smartphone. Texas is set to limit access to medication abortions, and some advocates say self-managed medication abortions may be how many patients obtain care in the near future. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

On Heels of SB 8, Texas Poised to Restrict Access to Medication Abortions

With extreme abortion bans likely to spread across the U.S., one rights advocate said the medical community will have to "drastically shift the way people access abortion, on their own terms."

Julia Conley

Reproductive rights advocates this week have strived to spread information about self-managed medication abortions following the U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed an extreme forced-birth law to go into effect in Texas—but Republicans in the state are now poised to ensure non-surgical abortions are harder for patients to obtain.

"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."
—Texas State Rep. Donna Howard

 
Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign Senate Bill 4, which would bar healthcare providers from administering the two pills needed for medication abortions after seven weeks of pregnancy. Currently, medication abortions are legal in the state until 10 weeks of pregnancy.
 
The bill also prohibits the two pills—misoprostol and mifepristone—from being sent via mail in Texas. According to The 19th, those who are found to "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly" violate the law could face up to two years in jail and fines of up to $10,000. Medical providers who dispense the medication could also face disciplinary action.
 
Critics say the ban, like S.B. 8—which bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy—is meant to make it virtually impossible for most women in Texas to obtain care.
 
"Six weeks, seven weeks... both of them are set to stop access to abortion before most know that they're pregnant,” Jennifer Driver, senior director of reproductive rights for the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), told The 19th.
 
The bill is currently on Abbott's desk after the state House of Representatives passed it in a vote of 82-41 on Tuesday. Earlier this week, the governor tweeted, "Texas will always defend the right to life," suggesting he is likely to sign S.B. 4.
 
The bill is awaiting Abbott's signature as rights advocates look to medication abortion as a last resort for many women in Texas—even if S.B. 4 goes into effect.
 
The Republicans who pushed the medication abortion ban through the legislature have claimed there are increased complications for patients who use the pills after seven weeks of pregnancy, but according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, fewer than 1% of patients experience adverse effects after having a medication abortion.
 
About 60% of people who have abortions by the tenth week of pregnancy choose medication abortions, the Guttmacher Institute reported in 2019.
 
"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," state Rep. Donna Howard, a Democrat who represents Austin, said Monday during the legislative debate over S.B. 4.
 
With Republican lawmakers across the country now eyeing legislation like Texas' six-week ban and medication abortion bans likely to follow, public health researcher Dr. Daniel Grossman said the medical community must "envision something better" for patients who are facing restrictions on care.
 
"Advance provision of medication abortion pills empowers people with the capacity for pregnancy to determine on their own when they need the pills and how to use them using protocols clinics are already using," said Grossman, director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health. "We can drastically shift the way people access abortion, on their own terms."

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