HOUSTON — Texas’ abortion law has caught the eye of critics around the country. It bans abortions in Texas after six weeks of pregnancy.
But another bill could soon limit women’s access to abortion pills.
As Texas abortion clinics find themselves navigating new waters amid the state’s new controversial law, another abortion bill could be just months away from becoming law. It's awaiting Governor Greg Abbott's signature.
This one targets abortion pills.
“It’s a good policy in that it helps protect women and highlights some of the dangers of abortion," said Rebecca Parma, senior legislative associate for Texas Right to Life.
“We know that this is just another attempt to cruelly push abortion care out of reach for everyone in Texas," said Caroline, Duble, political director of Avow Texas.
Senate Bill 4 just passed in the most recent special session.
Parma said the bill would do two things.
First, it would pre-emptively put a ban on doctors' ability to mail abortion pills to patients, something that’s already not happening in Texas.
“It’s something that we are not allowed to do currently under the FDA regulation, and so with the anticipation that those are going to be removed, that’s why we wanted to clarify this under state law that that cannot happen," Parma said.
Second, it would cut back the time in which a pregnant woman can get abortion pills. The current time is 10 weeks into her pregnancy, but this bill would cut that back to seven weeks, which Parma said would help ensure her safety.
“Initially in 2000, the 7-week limit is where the FDA placed the limit on using these drugs. And so a lot of these changes being made in the law go back to the those 2000 initial guidelines," Parma said.
"Whatever we can do to protect women on this issue, that’s what’s been made a priority, and that’s what you see in SB4," said Jonathan Saenz, president & attorney for Texas Values.
But abortion advocates say the pills have been proven to be very safe.
"The FDA, as well as evidence from around the world, tell us that these pills can be safely used up to 10 weeks gestation. That has been safely practiced in the state of Texas since 2016 and around the country and world for much longer. There’s no health or safety reason for this policy," Duble said.
And they say this bill was designed for the sole purpose of limiting access to abortion, and will have the opposite effect.
"There’s going to be more people for whom in-clinic medication abortion or abortion at all is inaccessible, and they are then going to go online and see what option they have if it becomes impossible to reach a clinic," said Blake Rocap, legislative counsel for Avow Texas.
But there’s one big caveat to all of this. Under that new law that was just passed, abortions are banned at around six weeks, no matter what form. Which means if that law continues to stand in Texas, this bill has virtually no impact, besides banning the ability to mail abortion pills in the future.
For which, Parma said, they’ll have the ability to prosecute, even out-of-state providers.
“The penalty under this law allows for extradition, so holding those out of state providers still accountable to our law," Parma said.