Dec 15, 2021 - News

Texas and other states crack down on abortion pills

Data: Guttmacher and Axios research; Map: Jacque Schrag/Axios

As the U.S. Supreme Court signals a potential end to Roe v. Wade, abortion rights activists are heralding abortion pills as a potential option in places where clinics may have to close — but Texas and other red states are already cracking down on them.

Driving the news: A new Texas law went into effect this month that that bars access to abortion pills after seven weeks of pregnancy.

  • The law also makes it illegal to send abortion pills through the mail.
  • That's in addition to the ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which the Supreme Court last week declined to block.

The big picture: Almost half of U.S. states have banned or tightly restricted abortion pills — two medicines named mifepristone and misoprostol — and more could soon follow suit.

  • Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said patients seeking abortion pills had to get the drug from hospitals or medical facilities in person.
  • In April, the Biden administration lifted that requirement, opening up access through telemedicine. The FDA is expected to decide next week whether that option will remain in place.
  • Indiana bans the pills after 10 weeks. So do Oklahoma and Montana, though courts have blocked those laws.
  • The Wyoming state Senate passed a bill in March aimed at completely outlawing abortion pills.
  • In Iowa and Ohio, laws require a physician to be present when a patient takes the medication. However, federal judges blocked those laws, saying the requirement places an "undue burden" on women.

At least one Austin area mother has stocked up on abortion pills as a consequence of the Texas laws.

  • "We now have to add this extra thing to our arsenal of having a plan, Plan C," Angela Vega told KVUE in October, which she described as "having self-managed abortion medication in our medicine cabinet."

What they're saying: "I think pretty much any state that is on the conservative side might expect to see similar legislation in 2022," Elizabeth Nash, state policy expert at the Guttmacher Institute, told Axios.

What's next: Some activists have been pointing to newer options that skirt certain telemedicine restrictions and operate in a legal gray area, including one online provider, Aid Access, founded by a Dutch physician in 2018, which will mail abortion pills internationally.

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