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Texas Republicans Aim to Censor Abortion Pill Websites

Lawmakers are reportedly drafting legislation that would require internet providers to block access to the sites within state borders. Freedom, etc!

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Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty (Getty Images)

Anti-abortion advocates are very mad that abortion pills exist, because they allow people to end their pregnancies at home without having to face protesters—and circumvent state bans that have shuttered clinics. Anti-abortion activists have already filed lawsuits that could ban blue-state medical providers from prescribing medication abortions, and lawmakers plan to target abortion pills even harder in 2023, according to new reporting from the Washington Post.

One plan involves Texas lawmakers drafting legislation to censor abortion pill websites, including Aid Access, a service run by a Dutch doctor. The European-based site launched in 2018 due to dwindling access in the U.S. and, about a year ago, it started to offer “advance provision” of abortion pills to people in all 50 states before they’re pregnant.

The Post reports that Texas Republicans are preparing to introduce a bill for the January 2023 session that “would require internet providers to block abortion pill websites in the same way they can censor child [sexual abuse material].” John Seago, the president of Texas Right to Life, the state’s biggest anti-abortion group, told said the effort would target Aid Access as well as pharmacy sites not run by medical providers.

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Beyond the fact that managing your own abortion with pills is not a crime, it’s deeply ironic that the self-professed party of freedom—one that rails against censorship in other countries like China—wants to block access to a website. The Post did note that “even antiabortion lawyers say that effort would raise free speech concerns.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, described abortion pills as a “cataclysmic problem.” She told the Post it’s the second question she asks Republicans who seem likely to run for president in 2024. (The first is about their comfort with advocating for a national abortion ban at either six weeks or 15 weeks.) “We don’t have to dictate their solution [for pills],” Dannenfelser said. “But they have to have one.” Dannenfelser said she’s also working with Republican governors, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, on how to crack down on word-of-mouth networks where activists mail pills from countries like Mexico.

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Another group, Students for Life, plans to focus on weaponizing environmental regulations and wants to create a team of “student investigators” to test wastewater in hopes of finding “contamination” from abortion pills. They plan to use that information to ask Republican Attorneys General to issue “statewide injunctions” on abortion pills, though it’s not clear how that would be enforced short of rifling through every resident’s mail.

These planned attacks aren’t surprising, as Greer Donley, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, recently told Jezebel: “They’re trying to do whatever they can to go after pills.”

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This feels like a great time to repeat the fact that Aid Access is trusted service that will ship abortion pills to anywhere in the U.S.!