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Texas to implement second major abortion law

The new law would decrease when in a pregnancy medication abortions can be prescribed, from 70 days to 49 days

Protesters rally outside the Supreme Court on Nov. 1 as justices hear two challenges to a Texas’ abortion law.
Protesters rally outside the Supreme Court on Nov. 1 as justices hear two challenges to a Texas’ abortion law. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Texas is expected to implement a second major abortion law on Thursday as the Supreme Court weighs arguments that could change the future of how states can restrict abortion.

The new Texas law would limit medication abortions, a nonsurgical procedure where a patient takes two pills known as mifepristone and misoprostol that induce an abortion. 

Medication abortions — not to be confused with the morning-after pill, also known as Plan B, that prevents pregnancy — are commonly used during the earliest stages of pregnancy. 

The law would decrease when in a pregnancy medication abortions can be prescribed, from 70 days to 49 days. About 60 percent of abortions conducted before 10 weeks are medication abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which favors abortion rights.

The implementation comes as the high court weighs a different Texas law that has banned almost all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy since September.

Justices also on Wednesday heard arguments in a Mississippi case that limits abortions to 15 weeks. That case is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Restricting medication abortion, the most common type of abortion in this window, would further limit any abortion in the state.

The new law would also prohibit drugmakers, pharmacies and providers from mailing or delivering drugs used in medication abortions. It would also require a follow-up visit and for the medical provider to document side effects, including any complications in subsequent pregnancies.

The Food and Drug Administration set a Dec. 16 deadline earlier this month to review national restrictions on medication abortion drugs, which can only be dispensed in certain medical settings rather than in a pharmacy. Abortion rights advocates have argued that the drug, which was approved by the FDA in 2000, should be more widely available.

Earlier this year, the FDA announced it would not enforce requirements that mifepristone be dispensed in person by a medical provider during the COVID-19 pandemic. The requirement has been the subject of litigation both during and prior to the pandemic.

“This year, we have witnessed the Biden administration temporarily lift restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs and heard from those who want to permanently roll back safety protocols in place to pregnant women. We will not allow this to happen in Texas,” Gov. Greg Abbott said at a Texas Values’ Faith, Family, and Freedom policy forum in September, where he signed the legislation into law.

Jamila Perritt, president and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said the Texas law would directly contradict the guidelines set by the FDA for evidence-based medical care.

“What’s happening is that we have folks with no medical background, no medical training, objecting and legislating medical care. And so it decreases the ability of folks to access medication abortions,” she said on Tuesday, noting the law was a test case.

“With this going into effect we’re again going to continue to see this spread like wildfire and we’ll have folks outside of Texas certainly putting this into practice in the same way,” she said. 

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