Texas is trying new tactics to restrict access to abortion pills online
Texas is trying to limit access to abortion pills by cracking down on internet service providers and credit card processing companies. These tactics reflect the reality that, afterdeerThe Internet is a critical channel for people seeking abortion information or trying to buy pills to terminate a pregnancy, especially in states where they can no longer access this information at physical pharmacies or medical centers. .
Texas has long been a laboratory for anti-abortion political tactics, and on March 15 a U.S. district judge heard arguments in a case seeking to overturn FDA approval of mifepristone, a drug that can be used to terminate an early pregnancy. The case would limit online facilitated abortions and have far-reaching consequences, even in states that do not try to restrict abortion.
Earlier this month, Republicans in the Texas state legislature introduced two bills aimed at restricting access to abortion pills. The first bill, HB 2690, would require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to ban sites that provide access to the pills or information about obtaining them. Companies like AT&T and Spectrum should “make all reasonable and technologically feasible efforts to block Internet access to information or material intended to aid or facilitate efforts to obtain elective abortion or abortion-inducing medication.” The bill would also prohibit publishers and ordinary people from providing information about access to abortion drugs.
The second bill, SB 1440, would make it a crime for credit card companies to process abortion pill transactions, and also make them subject to public prosecution.
Blair Wallace, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas, a nonprofit that champions civil liberties and reproductive choice, said the recent developments mark “a new frontier for how they come to ( abortion access),” adding, “It’s really terrifying.”
Wallace sees this as the continuation of a strategy that seeks to criminalize entire networks of abortion care in order to isolate people seeking abortion. More broadly, this strategy of censoring information and language has become a popular tactic in America’s culture wars over the past few years, and the proposed bill could prompt platforms to aggressively suppress information about accessing abortion for the sake of legal risk. Some sites, like Meta’s Instagram and Facebook, have reportedly removed information about abortion pills in the past.
So what could be the outcome of all the Texas action? The bill targeting ISPs and the mifepristone case this week are unprecedented, meaning neither is likely to succeed. That said, the tactic is likely to stick. “Will we see him again in the next session? Will we see parts of this bill stripped and turned into amendments? There are a million ways it can play out,” Wallace says. Anti-abortion political strategy is coordinated at the national level even though fighting is taking place at the state level, and it is likely that other states will target online spaces in the future.
Online abortion resources can pose privacy risks. But there are many ways to access it safely. Here are some resources that I recommend.
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