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How Texans Are Getting Around Restrictive New Abortion Law

How Texans Are Getting Around Restrictive New Abortion Law

Most people seeking an abortion are more focused on trying to end their pregnancies safely and effectively than wary of potential legal repercussions. But in Texas, where the country’s most restrictive anti-abortion bill was signed into law earlier this month by Governor Greg Abbott, their decisions could come with a jail sentence.

Some Texans who have made the decision to end their pregnancies have begun seeking alternatives across state lines. States as far away as Illinois are already seeing patients who have managed to come up with the money to pay for both the trip and the treatment. Others have combed the internet to find pregnancy-ended drugs, which have also been outlawed in Texas after the seventh week of pregnancy.

Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Plan C, an organization that provides information about how to order abortion pills online and provides advice about avoiding legal trouble, says traffic on its website has skyrocketed since Texas’ law, Senate Bill 8, took effect. The organization, which does not distribute the pills itself, lists providers of the drugs, including some online pharmacies that might look questionable at first. But Plan C has tested the pills from all of the websites it promotes and has verified their reliability and safety.

Another group, the Netherlands-based Aid Access, is the only physician-run service that provides those seeking self-managed abortions in U.S. with pills, and is one of the most popular providers. The service doesn’t involve video or phone consultations or require ultrasounds that are otherwise mandated by some states. Instead, it uses electronic forms that ask patients about the first day of their last period and any potential bleeding disorders. If patients live in one of about 20 states where it’s legal to obtain abortion pills through telemedicine services, they receive a prescription from a U.S.-based provider who works for Aid Access that they fill through a mail-order pharmacy.

The Food and Drug Administration during the Trump administration demanded that Aid Access cease and desist its shipments of abortion pills, there is little the government can do to prevent the transactions, experts say. It would be completely impractical for the government to try to seize the packages given that millions of Americans routinely flout the U.S. prohibition on imports of most drugs, they say.

Those who live in restrictive states like Texas can still get medication from the organization; the group’s founder, Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, and her team submit prescriptions for those patients to a pharmacy in India, a major pharmaceutical manufacturer, which then ships the pills directly to their home addresses in the U.S. In those cases, pills cost $105 for the patient out of pocket and can take an average of two weeks to arrive. For people who can’t afford the price, Aid Access will accept any donation or cover the cost entirely.

Texas’ law does not criminalize abortions, but allows anyone, even someone outside Texas, to sue abortion providers or others who help people get abortions after the six-week limit for at least $10,000 per defendant. Abbott also signed Senate Bill 4 earlier this month, which makes it a state felony offense, punishable by jail time, for physicians to provide medication abortions to people who are more than seven weeks pregnant. The bill also seeks to crack down on the mailing of the pills to Texas residents.

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