Greg Abbott boasts ‘we’ve outlawed abortion in Texas’ as advocates combat disinformation campaign over healthcare fears
An “undercover” reporter pressed Texas Governor Greg Abbott over whether he would outlaw emergency contraception and birth control medication following his approval of the nation’s most-restrictive abortion law.
Lauren Windsor, executive director of political advocacy organisation American Family Voices and a reporter for web series The Undercurrent, presented herself as a “huge fan” of the governor during an event on 11 October and asked “what more can be done.”
“Can you do something about morning after pills and birth control, because I think it’s destroying the fabric of our society, giving women incentives to be promiscuous,” Ms Windsor asked the governor.
In his response, the governor appeared to conflate emergency contraception – which is legal and available in the state – with abortion-inducing drugs, which Mr Abbott has sought to ban from being mailed into the state.
The governor also said that he signed a “trigger law” that creates a statewide ban on abortions in the event that the US Supreme Court overturns the landmark decision in Roe v Wade, which provides constitutional protections for women’s healthcare, without waiting for state legislative action.
“So basically, we’ve outlawed abortion in Texas,” he said in the video.
When pressed if “there’s anything you can do to go further,” including banning over-the-counter emergency contraception, he replied: “I don’t know. That I don’t know.”
The Independent has requested comment from the governor’s office.
The US Department of Justice on Monday requested a federal appeals court stop the implementation of the state’s recent abortion law, which bans abortions in the state after six weeks of pregnancy – before many people are even aware they are pregnant – including in cases of rape or incest.
The Justice Department’s motion follows a three-judge panel ruling to temporarily reinstate the law, placing an administrative stay on a lower court’s injunction while it considers the state’s argument in legal challenges.
Governor Abbott signed another measure into law that prevents health providers from sending abortion-inducing medication to patients who are more than seven weeks pregnant – down from 10 weeks. The Food and Drug Administration established in 2016 that such medication is safe for use up to 70 days, or 10 weeks, after conception.
None of the state’s laws ban birth control or emergency contraception, like the “morning-after” pill, which the FDA approved for over-the-counter purchase in 2013.
But the new laws have fuelled concerns among health experts already battling a flood of misinformation and have amplified fears among Texans wondering if new measures could impact their access to healthcare, including birth control and other medication, according to reporting from Buzzfeed News.
American conservatives armed with disinformation campaigns and anti-abortion activists have long conflated abortion-inducing drugs with prescription birth control and contraception.
In 2014, the Supreme Court sided with anti-abortion activists to prevent for-profit companies – citing religious objections – from having their healthcare systems pay for birth control that they falsely believed were abortion-inducing drugs.
Last year, the nation’s high court sided with Donald Trump’s administration to allow employers, again citing religious objections, to opt out of an Affordable Care Act mandate allowing insurers to provide no-cost birth control.
This year, GOP lawmakers in Missouri sought to ban Medicaid from covering emergency contraceptives and intrauterine devices – which they falsely compared to abortion.
Texas – which has the ninth-highest rate of teen pregnancy in the US – is one of only two states where the state children’s insurance programme does not cover contraceptives to prevent pregnancy for low-income teenagers, according to The Texas Tribune.
The state programme does make exceptions for teens seeking birth control for medical issues like anaemia, endometriosis, and heavy periods, though the state requires extensive review to verify that the medication is not being used to prevent pregnancy.