In February the Texas legislature introduced State House Bill 2709 which, if passed, wants to increase legal liability for mothers and doctors participating in abortions as well as expand rights for the unborn fetus. This bill could have far reaching effects on expectant mothers and related forms of health care. Women in the state of Texas may face more barriers when dealing with in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments, miscarriages, and even filling specific medical prescriptions. The wording in HB 2709 could possibly put women’s lives at physical and legal risk. Keep reading to find out more about how this bill could possibly affect you.
How HB 2709 Amends Previous Law
HB 2709 is precise in its wording and attempts to amend Texas law by widening the scope of what is considered a pregnancy. The bill describes “Individual” as a “human being who is alive, including an unborn child at every stage of development from fertilization until birth.” While gestation only refers to the time period after a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus, development begins from the moment the egg is fertilized. Since it is hard to know the exact time an egg is fertilized, this bill closes any loopholes related to abortions. The use of the word “development” instead of “gestation” has further possible implications for your health care relating to areas from birth control to IVF.
This bill restricts abortion access by bridging gaps in the original trigger ban (which directly went into effect in Texas after Roe V. Wade was overturned last year) that outlawed “assisted” abortions (AKA abortions performed by a doctor). By making self-induced abortions illegal as well, this law criminalizes the use of abortion pills that could be bought over the counter or through the mail.
How This Affects Other Forms of Healthcare
The updates created by HB 2709 will have far reaching effects on other forms of healthcare. The bill’s description of an “individual” could possibly affect IVF procedure and clinics. Many clinics that perform IVF procedures store fertilized embryos on site. The new law would consider these embryos as human beings, possibly making it illegal to discard them. This could in turn make IVF treatments more expensive because embryo storage capacity would become scarce and costly. Patients may have to pay more for long term embryo storage. This issue could expand even further into the research realm and blur the lines for doctors and researchers who conduct genetic testing on embryos donated to them by these clinics.
On the flip side, emergency contraception and other forms of birth control like the pill and IUDs would most likely be protected under this bill and still be available to you. Since they prevent the fertilization of the egg and not just its implantation in the uterus that means they do not violate Texas law because “individuals” would not be harmed in these circumstances. However, the protection it provides for other pills that could possibly induce abortion is up in the air. There have been cases in Texas where pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions for medications that could possibly cause abortion, even if they are prescribed to treat a separate condition. The reason? Pharmacists are afraid of facing legal liability. Medications like misoprostol (which is used to treat stomach ulcers) that have the ability to induce abortion have been denied to women because the punishment for assisting with an abortion is so severe. This is preventing some women from treating their pre-existing health conditions.
The most concerning aspect of this bill is how the wording of it could affect situations where abortions are lifesaving healthcare. The bill specifically states that termination of pregnancy is only allowed in the event that the act is performed by a licensed physician on a pregnant woman to avoid her death, and that act “results in the accidental or unintentional death of the unborn child the pregnant female is carrying.” In this sentence the cause for concern is the use of “accidental or unintentional” because in situations involving ectopic pregnancies, abortions are considered the cure, and the death of the fetus is not accidental—it’s expected. Abortion is the procedure used to save the life of the mother in multiple situations including severe preeclampsia, pulmonary hypertension, and severe kidney disease. These are all cases where the mother’s life and the child’s life would be in danger if she continued to carry to term.
How This Affects Women
By denying women access to life saving health care and possibly forcing women to carry non-viable pregnancies to term, this bill very directly threatens the life of women and their babies. This bill also threatens the health of women who are seeking to fill prescriptions of medications suspected of inducing abortions (such as Plan C). This bill has a looming effect on women’s health and reproductive rights in Texas and that is why it is important to keep a watch on how this bill progresses through the legislature.
In addition to threatening the lives of women who are unable to carry the pregnancy to term, this bill puts women who have natural miscarriages and are suspected of having an abortion at legal risk. Currently, having or assisting with an abortion can come with penalties of life in prison or over $100,000 fines. However if State House Bill 2709 passes, the unborn child would have the same status as a born individual, and aborting the fetus would be on the same level of killing a human being which in Texas is punishable by death. This bill would equate a mother getting an abortion to a mother knowingly killing her child by drowning it.
These statistics carry a heavier burden when compared to how common a miscarriage is and how easy it is to accuse someone of purposefully killing their unborn child. In the United States, around 26% of pregnancies end in miscarriages. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the nation has seen an uptick in the number of women investigated and prosecuted for having a miscarriage. This includes investigating women for taking prescription drugs during pregnancy and for falling down the stairs to “purposefully” end a pregnancy. Since you can’t tell the difference between a natural abortion and a self induced abortion prosecuting a miscarriage becomes that much easier. A miscarriage is a deeply personal and emotionally difficult loss, and investigating them will result in a huge toll on womens’ mental health.
While the Right to Life organization did have a whistleblower website back in 2021 for people to anonymously report suspected abortions, that website has since been removed from the internet. Currently Texas law SB 8 acts as their whistleblower law and allows citizens to sue anyone they suspect of receiving or aiding an abortion.
Other effects on women include an increase of their already hefty financial burden. While we are already over taxed for necessary sanitary items like pads and tampons, higher price tags on IVF procedures due to increased embryo storage costs would make it that much harder on women’s finances.
How Pandia Can Help
State House Bill 2709 will not criminalize or effect the usage of birth control pills or emergency contraception. Pandia will continue to ship both items straight to the homes of Texas residents and will be available to provide telehealth services to keep you informed about your reproductive health. If you are a woman from the state of Texas who could be affected by this bill it is good to keep in mind the health care still available to you. Preventative methods like birth control pills, condoms, and IUDs are all a good first step to preventing pregnancy! Emergency contraception methods like Plan B One-Step, Aftera, My Choice, and Ella are all still legal in Texas and are great choices to keep on hand in case of an emergency.
With the overturn of Roe v. Wade, laws relating to women and their healthcare remain up in the air. It is important for you to stay up to date regarding abortion laws in your state and understand the rights and options still available to you regarding your healthcare. This is a reminder that State House Bill 2709 is still not Texas law, and has only been introduced into the state legislature. The abortion pill Mifepristone is still legal over the counter in the state of Texas for up to 7 weeks of pregnancy. Important Note: it is currently illegal if obtained through the mail! In the case of life threatening pregnancies, such as ectopic pregnancies, abortion is still legal and you should not face any restrictions in getting one in these situtaitons. Current law also primarily focuses on prosecuting the person performing the abortion not the person receiving the abortion. This reduces the legal liability on women who receive them.
To protect these rights it is important to vote and call your legislators. Whether you are in Texas or any other state that is encroaching on your reproductive rights make your voice and opinions heard! Here at Pandia Health we put your reproductive health first and will continue to provide telemedicine services to residents of Texas even as the landscape of women’s reproductive rights are encroached upon.