Texas Representative Steve Toth Introduces Bill to Block Websites Selling Abortion-Inducing Drugs
Texas Representative Steve Toth has introduced a bill that could be one of the dumbest state laws ever seen. The bill, HB 2690, effectively makes anything related to “abortion-inducing drugs” illegal. It requires websites that sell them to be blocked, and has a blanket prohibition on any attempt to “provide information on how to obtain an abortion-inducing drug.” The law goes further than that, banning basically any actions related to the web that involve information on an abortion-inducing drug. The bill also explicitly tells ISPs they need to block websites that the government tells them to block. When you’re at the point that you’re literally writing out a list of websites that ISPs need to block, you might just be violating the 1st Amendment.
The bill is blatantly, obviously unconstitutional, and has a private right of action against anyone who does any of the above. So even granting the “except for speech protected by the 1st Amendment” (which is everything) what will happen is a flood of vexatious lawsuits against any website providing information on abortions.
This bill conflicts with Texas’ social media bill, HB 20, which says that a social media platform “may not censor a user, a user’s expression, or a user’s ability to receive expression” based on their “viewpoint.” So, if a pro-choice person posted information on abortions and about abortion-inducing medicine, a social media website would be prohibited from taking down that content under HB 20, but also open to being sued by basically everyone based on HB 2690.
In trying to demand that websites not moderate, Texas Republicans apparently forgot that they also are very much wishing to censor content at the same time. This demonstrates how incredibly short-sighted and ignorant all of these laws are. It is pretty clear that both of these laws are unconstitutional intrusions over speech.
The Supreme Court is currently figuring out what to do about Texas’ social media law, which effectively banned the right of companies to moderate content on social media. The law has been challenged in court, and while a district court tossed it out as unconstitutional, the 5th Circuit reversed in a ruling so bizarre and incomprehensible, it is difficult to understand how anyone takes it seriously.
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The state of Texas has recently passed two controversial laws, one banning content moderation by social media platforms and the other imposing strict censorship on abortion information online. The hypocrisy of this situation has been widely exposed, as it appears that Texas is demanding online censorship when it suits their political agenda, while simultaneously opposing it when it limits their own free speech.
The first law, known as HB20, prohibits large social media platforms from censoring or removing user-generated content based on political or ideological viewpoints. This law has been championed by conservatives who argue that social media companies have used their power to silence conservative voices on their platforms.
However, the second law, SB8, is more troubling. It bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, making it one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. But more alarmingly, it also allows private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after the six-week mark, including medical professionals, abortion clinics, and even family members who provide financial or emotional support to a woman seeking an abortion.
As a result, many abortion providers and advocates are now afraid to share any information related to abortion on their websites or social media pages, out of fear of being sued. This censorship of crucial health information is not only hypocritical, given Texas’ stance on content moderation, but also poses a significant threat to women’s reproductive rights and healthcare.
Furthermore, the new abortion ban disproportionately affects low-income Texans, who may not have the resources to travel out of state to receive care. It also places an undue burden on those who are survivors of rape or incest, as they may not even know they are pregnant until after the six-week deadline has passed.
The hypocritical nature of Texas’ two new laws has been widely criticized by pro-choice advocates, free speech advocates, and even some conservatives who feel that the state is overreaching in its attempts to control the flow of information and stifle dissent. Many are calling on the courts to strike down SB8 as unconstitutional, arguing that it violates the First Amendment’s right to free speech and the right to access safe and legal abortion.
In the end, Texas’ hypocrisy has been exposed for all to see. The state cannot claim to support free speech and an open internet while simultaneously attempting to control information about reproductive health. It is high time for state lawmakers to recognize the damage their actions are causing and work towards creating policies that truly support the rights and well-being of all Texans.