On Thursday, Texas will enact a law that limits the use of abortion-inducing medications.
Under Texas law, providing medication after the seventh week of pregnancy is illegal; this conflicts with federal regulations. Moreso, sending medication via the mail is also illegal.
Texas statistics show that women most commonly terminate their pregnancies through medical abortion.
In light of these new restrictions, abortion opponents have become more concerned about the prevalence of “self-managed” abortion, where women obtain abortion medications with or without doctor’s prescription from out-of-state or foreign providers.
Evidence suggests that when legal abortion is restricted, more women self-manage their abortions.
Texans can no longer access abortion after six weeks of pregnancy because of a controversial new law that went into effect in September.
“Texas is looking at the ways that people are navigating around restrictions and trying to essentially make that as unsafe and as frightening for people as possible in order to deter them,” explained Farah Diaz-Tello, senior legal counsel at If/When/How, a reproductive justice organization.
Texans concerned about the new criminal penalties would prevent people from seeking medical care on self-managed abortion due to fear, according to Diaz-Tello and other activists.
Medical Abortion: What Does it Mean?
A medical abortion occurs when a pregnant woman takes two medications to induce an abortion, 24 to 48 hours apart.
Pregnant women may take these medications in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy up to 70 days after their last menstrual cycle, or roughly 70 days after their last menstrual cycle.
A prescription for the drug must be obtained directly from a health care provider, not from a pharmacy, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Texas already restricted access to abortion medication prior to this new law.
The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that Texas is one of at least 19 states where online doctor visits are not allowed for abortion-inducing medications.
The state law requires a physician to prescribe these medications in person.
Using this two-drug regimen could lead to 27 complications in Texas under the new law. These range from incomplete abortions to death to complications in future pregnancies.
The procedure of medical abortion is highly effective at terminating a pregnancy and there are few side effects to be concerned about.
Despite the inherent risks of any medical procedure, numerous long-term studies have shown that the latter procedure is highly effective at terminating a pregnancy.
Medical abortion advocates say the procedure is less invasive than surgical abortions and that patients often choose it because of this reason.
“Medication abortion really allows people the control to find the setting and the timing that works best for them,” said Dyana Limon-Mercado, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes.
“There’s all different reasons. You have people who maybe have unfortunately experienced sexual assault, and for them being able to have more control over the procedure … feels safer to them.”
Another medication, which can provoke symptoms similar to a miscarriage, can also be administered wherever it is safest for patients.
Emergency contraception is not the same as medical abortion, which is commonly called the “morning-after pill.”
Taken within 72 hours after unprotected sexual activity, as such, it only does one thing. It prevents pregnancy. In cases where a patient is already pregnant, it will not cause an abortion.
Medical abortion accounted for 53 percent of all terminated pregnancies in Texas in 2020, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
Operatives Workaround Texas Abortion Restrictions
Texas’ new law also prohibits abortion medication from being sent in by courier, delivery, or mail.
As to that, Texas law already requires physicians to administer the medication in person.
With the state’s new restrictions banning abortions after six weeks, this particular provision addresses a growing concern among opponents of abortion.
Particularly, because patients are getting drugs by mail, circumventing the required doctor appointment.
Known as a “self-managed abortion,” this process generally involves ordering abortion-inducing medications online, with or without prescription, or usually from pharmacies or physicians who live outside of the state.
A number of providers have been targeted by the FDA, including AidAccess, a group founded by a European doctor, named Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, in 2018.
AidAccess provides abortion-inducing medications to women in areas that have restricted access to the procedure.
Also, despite a lawsuit, Gomperts plans to keep prescribing in Texas.
According to CBS News, she believes she is legally protected since prescribing this medication is permitted where she resides.
Meanwhile, John Seago, legislative director of Texas Right to Life, said he hoped the new law would be just the beginning of the state’s efforts to curb out-of-state and online abortion providers.
“We see this as the future of the pro-life fight that is going to be around … even after Roe or even after states are able to pass very stringent pro-life laws,” Seago maintained.
“I don’t think we have all the policy tools on the table to appropriately regulate this issue.”