The law, Senate Bill 4, bans doctors from providing abortion-inducing medication to women who are seven or more weeks pregnant. The bill passed through Texas’ state legislature in August, and Mr Abbott quietly signed it on Friday, state records show.
The new law comes on the heels of Senate Bill 8, a highly restrictive abortion law that Mr Abbott signed with much more fanfare in May. The United States Supreme Court declined to block that law earlier this month, triggering a wave of outrage among pro-choice groups and a lawsuit from the US Justice Department.
SB 4 has so far avoided that kind of backlash. Mr Abbott held no signing ceremony, issued no press release, and posted no announcement on Twitter that he’d signed the bill. Many news sources did not appear to notice he’d done so until this week.
It is perhaps a fitting beginning for a law that women’s rights groups have called a “back-door ban on abortion.”
“Anti-choice politicians in Texas are launching their attacks on abortion access from every angle imaginable,” Adrienne Kimmel, head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement. “This law blatantly tramples on Texans’ fundamental freedoms and pushes access to care further out of reach.”
The Independent has reached out to Governor Abbott’s office for comment, but has not yet heard back.
SB 4 is set to take effect in December, at which point its violators can be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned for up to two years.
According to its official summary, the new law “prohibits a manufacturer, supplier, physician, or any other person from providing a patient with any abortion-inducing drug by courier, delivery, or mail service and requires a physician, before providing an abortion-inducing drug, to take certain actions.”
Texas Republicans have hailed SB 4 as a step toward “protecting life,” as one of the bill’s co-sponsors put it.
“I am proud to co-sponsor SB 4 to crackdown on unsafe ‘mail order’ abortions and increase the reporting requirements for complications resulting from all types of abortion,” Texas state representative Will Metcalf tweeted last month. “I proud [sic] to see this bill on its way to Governor Abbott’s desk!”
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