Thirty days after the overturning of Roe v. Wade this summer, Texas’ “trigger law” went into full effect, outlawing almost all abortion in the state. “The most precious freedom of all is life itself. Our creator endowed us with the right to life. And yet, millions of children lose their lives every year before they were even born,” said Gov. Greg Abbott during the bill signing ceremony.
Though abortion is now illegal, aside from cases where the mother’s health is at risk, thousands of Texan women are finding ways to get abortions. Meanwhile, abolishing abortion remains a legislative priority of the Republican Party of Texas. Texas Scorecard asked Texas Right to Life’s Senior Legislative Associate Rebecca Parma about the challenges still facing pro-life advocates in Texas and what can be done.
Illegal use of mailed abortion medication has skyrocketed
After the implementation of the trigger law, Aid Access—an Austrian international nonprofit and one of the top providers in the industry in Texas—reportedly saw more than a 1,000 percent increase in sales of abortion-inducing drugs. Just in the first 24 hours after a draft of the Supreme Court’s opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked, one of Aid Access’ medication fillers in California, Christie Piney, said they saw a 2,800 percent increase in website traffic.
Aid Access received a warning letter from the FDA in early 2019 for introducing a misbranded and unapproved new drug into interstate commerce. In response, Aid Access founder, Dutch physician Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, sued the FDA. The FDA pursued no further legal action, however, and the case was dropped.
Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, the organization’s founder, makes it very clear that if ever there is a complication with the abortion drugs, women should lie to medical providers.
“Aid Access always tells women, ‘Don’t say to anybody that you took the abortion pills, but just say that you had a miscarriage,'” said Gomperts.
Plan C, a U.K.-based organization that provides women seeking the abortion pill with information about where and how to obtain them, says it has seen a 15x increase in web traffic since Roe was overturned.
Plan C’s website encourages women to get the abortion pill mailed to them in Texas by using a virtual mailbox in another state that forwards directly to their home address.
“Unless Texas is willing to post abortion police at every woman’s mailbox to check and intercept her mail, Texans will still have access to medication abortion online and through the mail,” said Plan C co-founder Elisa Wells.
Parma says the Texas Legislature could act to tamp down on mailed abortion drugs.
“We want to do everything we can to stop or disincentivize such illegal mailing of the drugs into our state. So, Texas Right to Life is looking into ways this would be possible,” said Parma. “This could include expanding the private civil enforcement mechanism used in the Texas Heartbeat Act to current and future Texas pro-life laws. This may not fully address the problem, but is at least a start.”
Rising popularity of over-the-border abortions
On August 31, 2022, New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham signed an executive order initiating the creation of a taxpayer-funded $10 million abortion clinic near the Texas-New Mexico border, made for the sole purpose of drawing in Texan women seeking an abortion.
“The goal here is, build it, and they will come,” Grisham said after signing the bill.
The clinic will likely be built in Las Cruces, the second-largest city in New Mexico.
Parma said there are currently “pro-life organizations in New Mexico [that] are doing what they can to address abortion clinics attempting to open up across the border.”
Mexican abortion clinics have started to open their doors to American women, no questions asked. Clinics are placed strategically on the Mexico-U.S. border to entice American women to use their services.
Profem Tijuana, a Mexican abortion clinic on the Tijuana-San Diego border, reported that as of July 2022, they estimate more than 50 percent of their patients were American. Profem currently provides medication abortions but plans to expand and provide surgical abortions soon.
Additionally, several large companies such as Tesla, Amazon, Uber, and Starbucks have announced they will pay for female employees to go out of state and receive abortions. However, several Republican lawmakers have announced plans to introduce bills that would bar companies like these from doing business in Texas if they don’t change their previous standing.
Legislation was filed earlier this year in Mississippi that would make it illegal for women to travel out of state to receive an abortion; however, the bill was quickly dropped. It could be possible for Texas to attempt a similar bill to outlaw passing borders to get abortions.
“There will still be women who want to go to another state to obtain an abortion, but we want to work to make Texas so fully pro-life that women don’t feel that they have to do that; rather, they can stay in Texas and flourish with choosing Life for their child,” Parma said.
Local officials are refusing to prosecute illegal abortions
On June 27, 2022, five Texas district attorneys, along with 83 other DAs and attorneys general across the country, declared their refusal to prosecute illegal abortions, saying that criminalizing abortions was “a mockery of justice.”
These Texan DAs are Travis County DA Jose Garza, Dallas County DA John Creuzot, Bexar County DA Joe Gonzales, Nueces County DA Mark Gonzalez, and Fort Bend County DA Brian Middleton.
Garza believes criminalizing abortions does nothing but make abortion unsafe and difficult to access. “Here in Travis County, we will not force women into the shadows, especially when they need life-saving medical care,” Garza told reporters. “Here in Travis County, we will not criminalize personal health care decisions. If you need medical assistance, I implore you to seek it.”
“Ah, the rule of law is only selectively applied. Well, we knew that anyway, but nice of them to highlight it,” said one citizen in response to the DA’s announcement.
On August 2, 2022, San Antonio passed a resolution that redirects funds away from illegal abortion investigations and allows current Bexar County DA Joe Gonzales to refuse prosecution of illegal abortion cases; he has already announced his decision to do so.
On August 10, 2022, Dallas passed a resolution called the Grace Act, which deprioritizes the investigations of illegal abortions.
Parma said Texas Right to Life is “looking at ways to hold such lawless district attorneys accountable, but also again to expand the private civil enforcement mechanism of the Texas Heartbeat Act to current and future Texas pro-life laws.”
“The city of Houston will not prioritize utilizing resources to create any record used against those experiencing miscarriages, seeking abortion or any other pregnancy outcome,” Mayor Turner said during the press conference.
“As law enforcement, we support the mayor and council and the citizens of Houston, to make sure that we enforce all laws. We will continue to do that, as we’re duty bound. But obviously, there are priorities when you have limited resources,” Slinkard responded.
The Texas government must hold these law-breakers accountable. The DAs, mayor, and sheriff at hand are all avoiding doing the job that they were given.
“If those elected officials responsible for enforcing the laws refuse to do so, we need another method to ensure our Pro-Life laws are fully enforced,” Parma says. “Use of the private civil enforcement mechanism worked so well in the Texas Heartbeat Act – it incentivized the abortion industry to comply with the law and stop abortions on babies with detectable heartbeats – so we believe it will be useful in other Pro-Life laws as well to the same end of saving lives.”
The Texas Legislature is slated to reconvene on January 10, 2023.