A new Texas legislation went into effect this month, forcing physicians to evaluate patients in person before prescribing abortion drugs and prohibiting the supply of such pills by mail. According to NPR, abortion via telemedicine was already illegal in the state. However, breaking the new law, SB 4, is a state jail felony, meaning providers who are convicted face a prison sentence of up to two years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Although some states have prosecuted individuals under different statutes after they purchased abortion medicines online, the new law stipulates that patients who use telemedicine for abortions are not criminally accountable. The new rule prohibits doctors from performing abortions after 49 days of pregnancy, comparable to Texas‘ SB 8, which prohibits abortions after around six weeks of pregnancy.
For example, during the COVID-19 epidemic, over two dozen states changed their telemedicine regulations, according to a Commonwealth Fund analysis published in June 2021. Although the vast majority (with a few outliers) had taken steps to expand telehealth access, the majority had also sought change through administrative action, which means the solutions may not be sustainable after the public health emergency.