AUSTIN, Texas (LifeSiteNews) - On the heels of the Texas Heartbeat Act, pro-lifers can welcome another victory in the state, as Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed into law a bill prohibiting physicians or health care providers from giving women an "abortion inducing drug" after seven weeks of pregnancy.
Senate Bill 4, sponsored by state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D), was signed into law by Abbott on September 17, and is due to take effect December 2, 2021.
The bill largely prohibits the distribution of contraceptives, or "abortion inducing drugs," implementing a ban on the drugs after the 49th day, or seventh week, of a mother's pregnancy. Previous laws allowed the drugs to be handed out up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy.
Physicians may still distribute the drugs before the 49th day, at face-to-face meetings, but are subject to a number of requirements, including scheduling a follow-up visit no more than 14 days after giving the drug, to "confirm that the woman's pregnancy is completely terminated; and assess any continued blood loss."
Lucio said it was not an attempt to restrict abortions, but rather a way to protect the "health and welfare of every woman considering a drug-induced abortion."
"Doctors need to be present when patients receive these drugs so the patient knows what to expect from normal side effects and what needs to be addressed quickly before it turns into a serious issue," Lucio stated before the Senate when laying out the bill.
The bill does, however, stipulate that "[n]othing in this Act shall be construed as creating or recognizing a right to abortion."
In addition, the bill also places a ban on the mailing of such drugs within the state: "A manufacturer, supplier, physician, or any other person may not provide to a patient any abortion-inducing drug by courier, delivery, or mail service."
Those who "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly" violate the bill, are deemed to commit a criminal offence carrying a penalty of between 180 days and 2 years in prison, with fines rising to $10,000.
In a statement issued August 11, when the bill was passed, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said: "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' firm position that we are a pro-life state."
Not surprisingly, S.B. 4 has angered abortion activists, with NARAL Pro-Choice America acting president Adrienne Kimmel stating: "Anti-choice politicians in Texas are launching their 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 ... Anti-choice politicians have made their intentions abundantly clear, and they will stop at nothing to strip away reproductive freedom."
"What we see in this bill are outdated medical recommendations being codified and access to medications being rolled back," state Rep. Erin Zwiener (D) told the Texas Tribune. "I hope in the future we will move forward on issues of women's safety guided by evidence."
S.B. 4 follows on the heels of the Texas Heartbeat Act, which took effect September 1. It requires abortionists to screen for a preborn baby's heartbeat and prohibits abortion if a heartbeat can be heard (generally as early as six weeks), with exceptions only for medical emergencies.
The Heartbeat Act "exclusively" empowers private citizens to bring civil suits against abortionists, punishable by a minimum of $10,000 in statutory relief per abortion plus whatever additional injunctive relief is deemed "sufficient to prevent the defendant from violating this chapter or engaging in acts that aid or abet violations of this chapter."
The Act survived an emergency petition to block the law, on the grounds that the petition had not named anyone planning to file enforcement suits against abortionists, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the law.
Statistics from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute estimated that 55,440 abortions took place in Texas in 2017, a 3% decline compared to 2014. A total of 35 abortion providing facilities were found in the state in 2017, compared to 44 in 2014.