Its companion bill in the house is House Bill (HB) 6 by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-North Richland Hills).
The bill passed the Senate on August 11 by a vote of 19 to 10. It passed the House in an initial vote on Monday by 83 to 42. Because Abbott placed the topic on the call for the special session, he is expected to sign the bill.
Abortion-inducing drugs, like mifepristone, are regulated by SB 4. “[Mifepristone] blocks progesterone receptors and causes the death of the baby. Misoprostol is taken one to two days later and causes uterine contractions which expel the baby. This type of abortion is called ‘chemical abortion’ or ‘drug-induced abortion,’” the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, a group that supports SB 4, explains on its website.
The bill adds to the list of adverse events and reactions which doctors who induce the abortion would be required to report such as blood clots, cardiac arrest, renal failure, coma, and failure to actually terminate the pregnancy. In 2019, reports kept by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services showed 472 complications that are currently required to be disclosed from drug-induced abortions.
Furthermore, the abortion-inducing drugs can not be delivered by mail or courier, and a physician must examine the woman in person and independently verify her pregnancy before prescribing the drugs.
According to the bill, the abortion-inducing drugs can not be prescribed to a woman whose “pregnancy is more than 49 days of gestational age.” Current Federal Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines allow the administration of these drugs until 10 weeks gestation. Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Houston), a practicing doctor, explained during the House debate that the rate of complications from these drugs increases substantially between seven and 10 weeks gestation.
The bill also creates a criminal offense for a person — other than the pregnant woman — who intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly violates the law. Klick offered that the criminal offense is meant to have a deterrent effect, including deterring human traffickers.
One impetus for the bill, as pointed out by Rep. Ben Leman (R-Brenham), is that the FDA halted enforcement of the in-person dispensing of abortion-inducing drugs in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unknown when the FDA might reinstate the in-person dispensing requirement, but some legislators are concerned that it may never be reinstated.
The Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops supported the original bill, SB 394, filed by Lucio during the regular legislative session. “We support the regulation of chemical (drug-induced) abortion to protect the health and safety of every woman considering a drug-induced abortion,” states an action alert on their website.
Texas Right to Life also supports the bill. “We see this area of law as one that will continue to need attention since we’re seeing the abortion industry shift to practices like illegally mailing abortion-inducing drugs to Texans,” John Seago, Texas Right to Life legislative director, told The Texan.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, offered his support of SB 4. “When abortion-inducing drugs are available by mail, Texas women are put at risk from human traffickers and abusive spouses or significant others. By banning abortion-inducing drugs’ availability by mail, Senate Bill 4 strengthens Texas’ position that we are a pro-life state.”
The political action committee, Planned Parenthood of Texas Votes, wrote on its website that the bill, when proposed during the regular session, was “part of a nationwide, extremist strategy to ban abortion by pushing access to care out of reach.”
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.