Despite the ongoing quorum block in the Texas House after 58 Democratic members fled down in protest of Republican efforts to pass voting laws, the Texas Senate has advanced the Republican priority bills that were listed in Gov. Greg Abbott’s agenda for the special legislative session.
The upper chamber approved measures restricting abortion and amending rules about critical race theory Friday. Senate Bill 4 tightens restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs such as mifepristone. One Democrat joined 18 Republicans in a 19-3 vote on the bill that will outlaw the provision of drugs by mail and introduces requirements for physicians to perform an in-person examination of the patient.
The pandemic brought increased demand for abortion pills through telemedicine and in 2020, medicated abortions became the most common method to terminate a pregnancy. Research shows that mifepristone, used in conjunction with another pill, misoprostol, is overwhelmingly safe and effective when used to end a first-trimester pregnancy and the FDA is considering allowing such a prescription to be obtained through online delivery services. Republicans in Texas, however, are seeking to introduce state-level restrictions.
The bill comes two months after Texas passed one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws. It has been met with significant backlash from abortion rights advocates who have criticized lawmakers for deliberately exacerbating accessibility issues for those seeking the procedure across the state.
The Senate also passed S.B. 3 which seeks to tighten restrictions on the teaching of critical race theory. A critical race theory legislation was already passed during the regular session amid the ongoing national battle over American history. S.B.3 removes some of the materials that the current law requires students be taught. State Sen. Judith Zaffrini denounced the bill and emphasized the “unnecessary pressure, intimidation, and uncertainty” imposed on teachers.
The future of the two bills, along with other Senate-passed measures, is unclear. As the House remains sidelined, their passage remains largely symbolic.