Texas laws stomp on free speech

Luna Infante, Staff Writer

Texas State Representative Steve Toth recently introduced HB 2690, which seeks to restrict online access to information regarding abortion and abortion materials. This bill is known as the Women and Child Safety Act, and if passed, it would make it illegal to “provide information on how to obtain an abortion-inducing drug.” It would also restrict the creation of any “website, platform or other interactive computer service[s]” that provides information on medical abortion materials. Not only would it block online platforms, but it would require internet service providers to restrict internet access to such topics.

HB 2690 targets six websites, Aid Access, Hey Jane, Plan C, Choix Health, Just the Pill and Carafem. These sites provide information about medical abortions and how to obtain them. Texas citizens will lose access to these pages and their resources if this bill is passed. These Telehealth sites will completely lose their right to free speech and commerce, while women will lose access to information regarding their health. Similarly to Texas SB 8, HB 2690 encourages citizens to file lawsuits against any “who merely speak about or provide access to certain information.” As free speech is being threatened, so is women’s health — and possibly their lives. Pushing citizens to sue those who speak on reproductive resources will deny women of their rights. Women should be able to speak on these topics and have access to resources, especially regarding their health. Jennifer Pinsof, staff attorney, states, “Regardless of your stance on reproductive rights, this house bill is denying us our First Amendment rights. Anyone who cares about free speech — regardless of how they feel about reproductive care — should contact lawmakers considering such legislation and tell them to oppose this bill and others like it.”

This bill also seeks to criminalize Texas abortion funds that facilitate women receiving abortions in other states, making it a felony regardless of “the location at which the elective abortion is performed,” even if the other location protects abortion rights. Under this bill, donors to such funds are also criminalized. HB 2690 will also make it a crime to hide or destroy evidence of “performed or attempted” abortion on a Texas resident, whether it was done in the state or not. HB 2690 is extremist, and if passed, women lose even more reproductive rights to Texas law. Should this bill be passed, it will become effective as of Sept. 1, 2023. 

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, we have already lost the constitutional right to abortion. Medical abortion is all some states are left with, and implementing restrictions on them and information on them would be unjust and unsafe. Kiki Freedman, the CEO of virtual clinic  Hey Jane, wrote to Newsweek, “Anti-abortion politicians understand that medication abortion is now the most viable form of safe and effective abortion access, which is why they continue to attack it.” Restricting access to information regarding medical abortions would make it even harder for abortions to be done in healthy, safe ways. 

Passing such a regressive bill would stomp on our right to free speech, and it would strip women of resources they should have access to. If Texas wants to completely ban abortion and we seemingly cannot do anything about it, let us at least have access to information about it. Texas refuses to keep its policies off our bodies, and now it wants to put policies on our voices and our minds.