New Texas law limiting abortion takes effect Thursday

A new law limiting access to abortion pills in Texas went into effect on Thursday, worrying supporters of the right to abortion who fear the law will further restrict access in an already restrictive state.

SB4 bans abortion providers from providing a pill to terminate a pregnancy after 49 days, and also does not allow for the drugs to be shipped by mail, meaning women can't order the pills from across state lines. The law would have a big effect, considering more than a third of women in 2017 used abortion pills, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The bill, which had more than a dozen sponsors, was passed on a 82-41 vote in the state Senate. In submitted remarks, Texas House Representative Michelle Beckley, a Democrat, called attention to another part of the bill that forces women to report complications to a physician during a pregnancy.

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Beckley said the law is "unconstitutional" and an "unnecessary political interference in the practice of medicine."

"SB4 would create additional substantial, medically unnecessary reporting requirements for abortion providers including an impossible requirement that providers report on pregnancy complications that occur during subsequent pregnancies," she said. "These requirements are meant only to discourage the provision of abortion and encourage over-reporting of unrelated complications to make abortion look more dangerous than it is. Laws that regulate medical care should be based on scientific evidence, best practices, and preserve the physician-patient relationship."

The bill, which was signed into law on Sept. 17, specifically references three abortion drugs: Mifiprex, misoprostol and methotrexate, suggesting the former two cause "significant medical complications," including viral infections, abdominal pain, cramping, vomiting and headaches, among others.

But deaths and health complications are rare for the abortion pills. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved Mifiprex in 2000, and has reported just 24 deaths associated with the drug — but even in those cases, the FDA could not rule out the role of other adverse health complications or other drugs. Misoprostol is used in conjunction with Mifiprex in a regimen recommended for use before 70 days of pregnancy.

This is the second Texas law to severely limit abortion after the widely controversial bill banning an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before a heartbeat is detected, went into effect on Sept. 1.

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Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), said in an interview with CNN on Thursday that women in Texas are struggling to get an abortion.

Jackson said women are "fleeing to Oklahoma, clinics are not functioning, and poor women are in a devastating condition."

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently hearing oral arguments on a separate law banning abortions after 15 weeks in Mississippi. The conservative majority on the court could mean the turnover of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 ruling protecting the right to an abortion.