Texas gov. signs new law tightening restrictions on use of abortion drugs

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during an interview on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on July 14, 2015. | REUTERS/ BRENDAN MCDERMID

Just weeks into Texas' ban on most abortions once a heartbeat can be detected in a pregnancy, the state's Republican Gov. Greg Abbott further tightened the screws on the practice last Friday by signing into law another bill restricting access to abortion-inducing drugs.

The new law, Texas Senate Bill 4, prohibits a person "from providing an abortion‑inducing drug to a pregnant woman without satisfying the applicable informed consent requirements for abortions."

The law introduces certain reporting requirements for doctors prescribing the abortion pill, such as ensuring that her preborn baby is no older than seven weeks gestation. Violation of the law is a state jail felony.

The abortion drug Mifeprex, also known as mifepristone, blocks a hormone called progesterone that is needed for a pregnancy to continue, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

When used with another pill called misoprostol, the FDA says it can be used to end a pregnancy up until 70 days after the first day of a woman's last menstrual period.

A Texas Senate Research Center analysis of the bill noted, however, that the use of these abortion drugs can cause "significant medical complications."

"The use of Mifeprex or mifepristone presents significant medical complications including, but not limited to, uterine hemorrhage, viral infections, abdominal pain, cramping, vomiting, headache, fatigue, and pelvic inflammatory disease; and the failure rate and risk of complications increases with advancing gestational age," the analysis detailed.

"These drugs are in the United States Food and Drug Administration's special program Risk Evaluation Mitigation Strategies due to their potential harmful impact. If this classification were to change, Texas would not be able to maintain these safety standards until the legislature convenes."

Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, said in a statement that the organization "strongly" supports "the chemical abortion safety protocols in S.B. 4."

"Texas needs this bill to assure that chemical abortions are performed under the supervision of a physician and with adequate safety protocols," Pojman stated. 

Jonathan Saenz, an attorney and president of Texas Values, told The Daily Citizen that Chemical abortions "are dangerous" and "must be regulated to protect the health and safety of women."

"The 'No Mail Order Abortions' bill, S.B. 4, does just that by restricting chemical abortions, banning chemical abortions by mail, requiring an in-person examination of a woman considering a chemical abortion, and requiring informed consent and reporting, and prescribing criminal offenses for violations," Saenz stated. 

Abortion rights activists groups have voiced their displeasure with S.B. 4. NARAL Pro-Choice America Acting President Adrienne Kimmell said in a statement that the new law is the continuation of Texas' "attacks on abortion access from every angle imaginable."

"This law blatantly tramples on Texans' fundamental freedoms and pushes access to care further out of reach," Kimmell contends.

In 2016, the FDA approved an extension for the use of Mifeprex up to 70 days of pregnancy from a previous limit of 49 days despite the possible health risks, including death.

While that move was applauded by the abortion industry, Randall K. O'Bannon, director of education and research at the National Right to Life lobbying organization, said in a statement that the changes approved by the FDA only benefit the drug company. O'Bannon charged at the time that at least 14 deaths were caused by the use of Mifeprex.

"Despite a record of at least 14 known deaths, and thousands of women suffering significant adverse events, the FDA relaxed safety standards and modified the protocol for mifepristone/misoprostol chemical abortions that had been in place since September of 2000," O'Bannon said.

"The documentation demonstrating the impact on women's safety has not been made publicly available. Certainly, none of the modifications is of any benefit to the unborn child," he added.

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