The new legislative session is about to begin, and Texas Republicans don’t plan to waste any time in their ongoing quest to limit women’s access to reproductive services.
The Huffington Post reports that state Sen. Dan Patrick (R) is planning to introduce legislation to impose additional barriers for women seeking medically-induced abortions in their first trimester of pregnancy. Even though the abortion-inducing RU-486 pill is FDA-approved and has been used safely around the world since 1981, Patrick claims his bill will take necessary steps to safeguard the women who have medical abortions:
Patrick’s SB 97 would require, among other stipulations, that physicians be required to personally administer all doses of the medication to the pregnant women, even if they occur on multiple days.
The bill also requires physicians to examine the pregnant woman and chart the gestational age and intrauterine location of the pregnancy before administering the drug, as well as execute an emergency plan for unforeseen medical problems that may arise while the woman is on the medication.
Patrick’s bill also requires the pregnant woman’s doctor to schedule a follow-up visit within 14 days of administering the drug whereby the doctor must determine that the pregnancy is terminated. If any drug-related emergencies occur, the bill also requires physicians to report the events within three days to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or face possible disciplinary action through the Texas Medical Board.
Of course, doctors should administer safe and effective medical care to the women they serve. But the addition of so many complicated rules for women who seek abortions within their first 9 weeks of pregnancy — particularly requiring them to visit the doctor’s office potentially up to four different times — simply obstructs women’s access to legal abortion services. In the Guttmacher Institute’s annual report tracking state-level abortion restrictions, researchers noted that imposing limits on medication abortion was one of the most popular methods of attacking women’s reproductive rights in 2012.
Texas legislators are also currently considering a stringent 20-week abortion ban modeled after Arizona’s extreme law, the harshest abortion ban in the nation. Lawmakers will consider how they want to punish the women who seek late-term abortions past the arbitrary cut-off they impose. If the limits on both later-term and first-trimester abortions both pass, Texas women might be stuck. Limiting access to the abortion pill in the first few weeks of pregnancy causes later-term abortion rates to rise because some women are unable to get the medical treatment they need in the first trimester of their pregnancy.