Texas Lawmakers Consider New Restrictions on Medication Abortion as 6-Week Ban Takes Effect

As a restrictive Texas law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy took effect Wednesday, state lawmakers are pondering new restrictions on medication abortion, the Associated Press reported.

The lawmakers entered a special session Wednesday to discuss legislation on the abortion method, which uses pills to complete the procedure and accounts for approximately 40 percent of abortions nationwide.

The Texas legislature approved a bill Monday evening that would impose additional restrictions on medication abortions, the Texas Tribune reported. If approved, the new legislation would prevent patients who are more than seven weeks pregnant from using the method.

Currently, state law permits medical providers to distribute the pills to patients looking to have abortions when they are up to 10 weeks pregnant. Guidelines issued in 2016 from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration instructed that the method is safe for up to 10 weeks, or 70 days, after someone becomes pregnant, the Tribune reported.

Texas became one of the most restrictive states in the country for abortions when its fetal heartbeat law went into effect Wednesday. Abortion providers filed an emergency appeal earlier in the week asking the Supreme Court to block the legislation, but the high court has yet to act, the AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Women Protest Passage of Texas Abortion Law
Texas lawmakers are considering imposing new restrictions on medication abortions as that state's restrictive six-week abortion ban takes effect. Above, pro-choice and pro-life activists descended on the Capitol in Austin as Texas lawmakers struggled with passage of a bill, now enacted as law, that would limit the number of abortion providers by increasing medical standards for clinics to the level of ambulatory surgical centers. Robert Daemmrich/Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images

If allowed to remain in force, the law would be the most dramatic restriction on abortion rights in the United States since the high court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country in 1973.

The Texas law, signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott in May, would prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks and before most women even know they're pregnant.

Abortion providers who are asking the Supreme Court to step in said the law would rule out 85 percent of abortions in Texas and force many clinics to close. Planned Parenthood is among the abortion providers that have stopped scheduling abortions beyond six weeks from conception.

At least 12 other states have enacted bans on abortion early in pregnancy, but all have been blocked from going into effect.

What makes the Texas law different is its unusual enforcement scheme. Rather than have officials responsible for enforcing the law, private citizens are authorized to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in facilitating abortions. Among other situations, that would include anyone who drives a woman to a clinic to get an abortion. Under the law, anyone who successfully sues another person would be entitled to at least $10,000.

Abortion opponents who wrote the law also made it difficult to challenge the law in court, in part because it's hard to know whom to sue.

Texas has long had some of the nation's toughest abortion restrictions, including a sweeping law passed in 2013 that the Supreme Court eventually struck down but not before more than half of the state's 40-plus abortion clinics closed.

Texas Abortion Law Takes Effect
A Texas law banning most abortions in the state took effect at midnight on September 1, but the Supreme Court has yet to act on an emergency appeal to put the law on hold. Above, Texas state Representative Donna Howard (center at lectern) stands with fellow lawmakers in the House Chamber in Austin as she opposes a bill introduced that would ban abortions as early as six weeks and allow private citizens to enforce it through civil lawsuits, under a measure given preliminary approval by the Republican-dominated House on May 5, 2021. Eric Gay/AP Photo