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Texas lawmakers float policies on abortion-inducing medications

Bills from both Democrats and Republicans on abortion-related measures could be weighed when the legislature returns to the Texas Capitol on January 10. (CBS Austin file image)
Bills from both Democrats and Republicans on abortion-related measures could be weighed when the legislature returns to the Texas Capitol on January 10. (CBS Austin file image)
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Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they want to address policies on abortion-inducing medications in the upcoming legislative session.

Bills from both Democrats and Republicans propose addressing abortion policies in Texas following the sweeping measures signed into law in the previous legislative session in 2021, including a near-total ban on abortions.

“I think it’s no surprise that there will be legislators specifically on the conservative and Republican party who will be looking to build on the limitations to abortion access that were passed in 2021,”James Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project, said. “I think the question is what is broader interest in the legislature and the state, given that what is a fairly tenuous among of public opinion support for what’s been done so far.”

Recent polling conducted by The Texas Politics Project found the vast majority of Texans do not believe in further restrictions to abortion access, following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Fully half of respondents said they believe abortion access should be less strict in Texas.

“I think the chances of the Republican-led legislature fully reversing themselves in any way on what has been the trajectory of increasingly restrictive laws in the state over the last two decades is pretty small,” Henson said. “I don’t think that we’re going to see any of that sweeping legislation move very much.”

Among those Republican-sponsored policies are one from state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, whose SB300 seeks to codify a pharmacist's right to refuse dispensing a drug, namely abortion-inducing medications.

Sen. Hall did not return CBS Austin's request for comment.

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On the other side of the aisle, several Texas Democrats, including from Central Austin, have filed legislation to reinstate abortion measures, including state rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, who proposed a constitutional amendment that would limit the legislature's ability to pass legislation regrading abortion healthcare.

“I think Texas women should be the ones to make decisions about their own bodies, their own future, and their own healthcare, not the government," Rep. Talarico told CBS Austin. "And it feels weird as a Democrat to say we should be reigning in government power, that used to be what conservatives would champion, but that has changed in recent years."

The distribution of abortion-inducing medications has been something of a legal gray area in national politics: the medications are most often mailed from areas where abortion remains legal.

This week, the Food and Drug Administration announced it was updating its regulations to expand access to abortion-inducing medications by allowing drugstores and pharmacies to sell them, rather than having a doctor prescribe them.

In a statement, Kathleen Thompson, the chair of the board of directors for Progress Texas, said, “Like President Biden’s executive action last year, the new Justice Department opinion is a necessary step in advancing reproductive health, but doesn’t guarantee immunity for sending or receiving drugs in states that restrict them. Don’t believe misinformation—self-managed abortion (medication abortion) is effective, common, and safer than Tylenol. While we wait for Congress to codify Roe, Texas’ ‘sue thy neighbor law’ and laws that criminalize folks for self-managing abortions also harm those who spontaneously miscarry. Pregnant Texans deserve care, not criminalization.”

In spite of that, Henson said he doesn't believe the legislature will take much decisive action on abortion access in the upcoming legislative session.

"We’re going to be at somewhat of a stalemate this session on abortion issues, but a stalemate where there’s not much really is a win for proponents of abortion rights given where we started," he told CBS Austin. "Where the sweet spot in public opinion is shoring up these gray areas and making the argument that the state has gone either far enough already or too far, and that we need to remedy some of the areas where the state has gone too far.”

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The legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, January 10.

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