Texas restricts medication abortion less than a month after their six-week abortion ban

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Texas has implemented a law that restricts medicated abortion starting Thursday, less than a month after initiating its six-week abortion ban and as the Supreme Court is poised to make a ruling on Roe v. Wade. 

The law took effect on Thursday, after Texas Governor Greg Abbott, 64, quietly signed the bill back in September. It restricts medication abortions by cutting the timeline physicians have to prescribe it back three weeks from the federal recommendation. 

Physicians in the state will now no longer be able to prescribe the abortion pill – which is different from Plan B, also known as the ‘morning after’ pill –  after seven weeks of pregnancy. The FDA’s limit is 10 weeks. 

The law comes just as the Supreme Court is poised to decide the future of Roe v. Wade, a ruling that will have far-reaching implications were it to be overturned, and after Texas controversially banned abortions in the state past six weeks. 

The new Texas law makes prescribing abortion pills – such as mifepristone and misoprostol, the combo set typically given to women for medication abortion – a felony for doctors to send the pill via mail and now requires an in-person consultation and examination. 

The law can also land doctors with a $10,00 fine and up to two years in jail if they’re caught mailing prescriptions. 

The law only applies to physicians, not pregnant women, the HuffPost reported. 

Governor Greg Abbott, 64, signed Texas’ new abortion law in September. The new law, which took effect Thursday, bans medication abortion past seven weeks – three weeks shorter than the FDA limit

The abortion pill, which is typically given in a set of two pills: mifepristone (pictured) and misoprostol - is 95 percent effective and extremely safe, with less than a one percent chance of complications. It is used in more than 50 percent of Texas abortions before the six-week ban and is the most common method used nationally

The abortion pill, which is typically given in a set of two pills: mifepristone (pictured) and misoprostol – is 95 percent effective and extremely safe, with less than a one percent chance of complications. It is used in more than 50 percent of Texas abortions before the six-week ban and is the most common method used nationally 

Democratic Representative Donna Howard slammed Abbott's new law, saying it was a 'one-two punch' that strips women of the ability to make their own healthcare decisions

Democratic Representative Donna Howard slammed Abbott’s new law, saying it was a ‘one-two punch’ that strips women of the ability to make their own healthcare decisions

Abbott commemorated the law back in September as a ‘celebration of Texas values.’ 

‘What today is a celebration. It’s a celebration of Texas values, and what we do to support those Texas values,’ Abbot said on September 17, when he signed the bill. 

But it wasn’t every Texans ‘value.’ Democratic Representative Donna Howard slammed the new law, that went into effect on Thursday, 

‘It’s been three months since Texas imposed a near-total ban on abortion procedures ― and now, lawmakers are once again coming after choice by restricting medication abortion, ignoring FDA and medical evidence of its safety and effectiveness.’ 

‘This one-two punch will strip away the ability of Texans to make their own health care decisions.’ 

Stripping women of medication abortion will have devastating impacts on Texas, as more than 50 percent of abortions in the state were performed this way, prior to the six-week ban. 

Nationally, 39 percent of abortions are performed this way, according to the Guttmacher Institute. It is the most common method in the US. 

The elimination of mail service for the medication will leave even more women struggling to meet the seven-week deadline. 

Those who can’t travel or do not have the ability to take time off for an clinical abortion procedure – which can cost up to $300, whereas the pill can be anywhere from free to a little over $100. 

‘Time is a big factor,’ Dyana Limon-Mercardo, the president of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes told the HuffPost. ‘Many people are living paycheck-to-paycheck, they are working demanding jobs where they might not have paid time off or may have irregular hours. 

‘[It’s helpful for] people who already have children to be in a setting where they know they have child care available, or they’re able to begin that process at home when their children are already asleep. 

‘Many people choose medication abortion because they’re able to set the time and place for their abortion.’ 

Not only does it do a disservice to those who are unable to get a clinical abortion or those who are past the seven-week state standard, but the new law is almost entirely eliminating a highly safe abortion method. 

The conservative court is set to hear a case, which could overturn Roe v. Wade and have far-reaching implications nationally. The Court began hearing the case on Wednesday

The conservative court is set to hear a case, which could overturn Roe v. Wade and have far-reaching implications nationally. The Court began hearing the case on Wednesday 

A <a class=group of women take abortion pills outside of the US Supreme Court on Wednesday as the Court started hearing a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%”>

A group of women take abortion pills outside of the US Supreme Court on Wednesday as the Court started hearing a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade 

What could happen if the Supreme Court sides with Mississippi’s 15-week ban on abortions 

The state is fighting to keep its ban on abortions after 15 weeks in place, and in a separate filing asked the high court to overturn Roe v. Wade altogether.

Twelve states have already enacted ‘trigger laws,’ where if Roe is overturned, abortion in the state would be made illegal immediately without action from the legislature. 

Twenty-six states are likely to ban or restrict abortion quickly if such power is returned to the states. 

Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Texas have all passed heartbeat bills, but none except Texas’ have gone into effect due to court intervention. 

The JWHO has said that since a law in Texas banning abortions after six weeks took effect Sept. 1, one-fourth of its patients come from the Lone Star State. 

 If the justices move to uphold the 15-week ban but not overturn Roe, the right to an abortion would likely remain in place but with a drastically shortened legal window.

Current precedent established by Roe allows abortions up until the point of fetal viability outside the womb, about 24 weeks. 

Mississippi’s law would shave off roughly two months and also signal a green light that states like Texas that want shorter timelines could have a case 

The law also does not make exceptions for rape or incest – which if approved by the Supreme Court could be a feature of anti-abortion laws throughout the country. 

Adding Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the bench has strengthened the court’s 6-3 conservative majority and given hope to pro-life lawmakers and activists that the nation could again see a day where states are able to fully outlaw abortion.    

Twelve states have already enacted ‘trigger laws,’ where if Roe is overturned, abortion in the state would be made illegal immediately without action from the legislature. Twenty-six states are likely to ban abortion quickly if such power is returned to the states. 

Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Texas have all passed heartbeat bills, but none except Texas’ have gone into effect due to court intervention. 

The JWHO has said that since the Texas law took effect Sept. 1, one-fourth of its patients come from the Lonestar State.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen has warned of a ‘revolution if the court overturns Roe. 

‘I hope the Supreme Court is listening to the people of the United States because – to go back to Adam Sexton’s question – I think if you want to see a revolution go ahead, outlaw Roe v. Wade and see what the response is of the public, particularly young people,’ Shaheen said during a virtual event Monday featuring New Hampshire’s entire House and Senate delegation. ‘Because I think that will not be acceptable to young women or young men.’  

The abortion pill is 95 percent effective – and safer than the common pain reliever Tylenol – it also has less than a one percent chance of complications, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

‘Medication abortion is so safe and complications are so rare that there is absolutely no justification for this law,’ Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute told the HuffPost. 

‘Between the six-week ban and the medication abortion restriction, Texas has limited abortion access to the absolute minimum.’  

Since the six-week ban when into effect on September 1, many Texan women have been forced to leave the Lone Star State – which spans almost 800 miles across all directions – to received an abortion. 

Many are fleeing to neighboring states, like Oklahoma, to get it done. Those are who unable to travel are forced to complete their pregnancy.

The six-week ban also drew even more controversy as it isn’t enforced by the state but by Texas’ own private citizens. 

The law that took effect on September 1 allows any private citizen to sue Texas abortion providers who violate the law, as well as anyone who ‘aids or abets’ a woman getting the procedure.

The statute sets minimum damages of $10,000 per banned abortion, to be paid out to the first person to prevail in a suit over the procedure. 

Indiana, Montana and Oklahoma have also passed abortion laws this year – although Montana and Oklahoma’s are not in effect yet. 

Indiana officials started enforcing a law in October that requires reports from doctors if they treat women for complications arising from abortions, even though the court said the law could be struck down in the future.

The law lists 25 physical or psychological conditions — including unsuccessful abortions, infections, uterine perforations, depression and deaths — that could trigger the reporting requirement for doctors or clinics. It makes failure to do so a misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Montana’s abortion law – which was halted in early October, hours before it was supposed to go into effect – would have and still could ban abortions at 20 weeks, and require providers to offer an ultrasound before an abortion and restrict access to medication abortions, according to NPR

Oklahoma’s was also halted. The law would have required all doctors who perform abortions in Oklahoma to be board certified in obstetrics and gynecology – which would have forced about half the abortion providers in Oklahoma to stop providing abortions – and would create new restrictions on medication-induced abortions. 

The Supreme Court is currently hearing the Dobbs case, a decision that could overhaul Roe v. Wade and could change Mississippi’s abortion law. 

The six conservative Supreme Court justices on Wednesday seemed poised to uphold Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks. The state is fighting to keep its ban on abortions. 

If overturned, it could set the path to change Roe v. Wade, which has protected abortion up to 23 weeks for decades.  

Roe v. Wade: The landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in America

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade. The landmark ruling legalized abortion nationwide but divided public opinion and has been under attack ever since. 

The case was filed in 1971 by Norma McCorvey, a 22-year-old living in Texas who was unmarried and seeking a termination of her unwanted pregnancy. 

Because of state legislation preventing abortions unless the mother’s life is at risk, she was unable to undergo the procedure in a safe and legal environment.

So McCorvey sued Henry Wade, the Dallas county district attorney, in 1970. The case went on to the Supreme Court, under the filing Roe vs Wade, to protect McCorvey’s privacy.

Supreme Court Decision

The Supreme Court handed down the watershed 7-2 decision that a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions, including the choice to have an abortion, is protected under the 14th Amendment. 

In particular, that the Due Process Clause of the the 14th Amendment provides a fundamental ‘right to privacy’ that protects a woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion.

 …nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

The landmark ruling saw abortions decriminalized in 46 states, but under certain specific conditions which individual states could decide on. For example, states could decide whether abortions were allowed only during the first and second trimester but not the third (typically beyond 28 weeks). 

Impact 

Among pro-choice campaigners, the decision was hailed as a victory which would mean fewer women would become seriously – or even fatally – ill from abortions carried out by unqualified or unlicensed practitioners. Moreover, the freedom of choice was considered a significant step in the equality fight for women in the country. Victims of rape or incest would be able to have the pregnancy terminated and not feel coerced into motherhood.

However, pro-lifers contended it was tantamount to murder and that every life, no matter how it was conceived, is precious. Though the decision has never been overturned, anti-abortionists have prompted hundreds of states laws since then narrowing the scope of the ruling.

One such was the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act signed by President George W. Bush in 2003, which banned a procedure used to perform second-trimester abortions.   

McCorvey lived a quiet life until the 1980s when she revealed herself to be Jane Roe

McCorvey lived a quiet life until the 1980s when she revealed herself to be Jane Roe

Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe)

Following the ruling, McCorvey lived a quiet life until the 1980s when she revealed herself to be Jane Roe. McCorvey became a leading, outspoken pro-abortion voice in American discourse, even working at a women’s clinic where abortions were performed.

However,  she performed an unlikely U-turn in 1995, becoming a born again Christian and began traveling the country speaking out against the procedure.

In 2003, a she filed a motion to overturn her original 1973 ruling with the U.S. district court in Dallas. The motion moved through the courts until it was ultimately denied by the Supreme Court in 2005.

McCorvey died at an assisted living home in Texas in February 2017, aged 69. 

‘The Heartbeat bill’

Multiple governors have signed legislation outlawing abortion if a doctor can detect a so-called ‘fetal heartbeat,’ part of a concerted effort to restrict abortion rights in states across the country.

Under the ban doctors will be prosecuted for flouting the rules.

Abortion-rights supporters see the ‘heartbeat bills’ as virtual bans because ‘fetal heartbeats’ can be detected as early as six weeks, when women may not be aware they are pregnant.

Anti-abortion campaigners have intensified their efforts since Donald Trump was elected president and appointed two conservative justices to the US Supreme Court, hopeful they can convince the right-leaning court to re-examine Roe v. Wade.

Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, and Louisiana have enacted ‘heartbeat laws’ recently, and Alabama passed an even more restrictive version in May, amounting to a near total ban on abortion from the moment of conception. Other states have similar legislation pending.

Similar laws has also been passed in Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Iowa and Kentucky, though they have been blocked by courts from going into effect as legal challenges have been brought against them.

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