Abortion performed up to the sixth week of pregnancy may now be resumed in some Texas clinics, US legal groups say.
A Texas judge has prevented officials from enforcing a dormant 1925 abortion ban that the Republican attorney general said was back in effect after the United States Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to process nationwide.
Judge Christine Weems issued the temporary restraining order on Tuesday following a last-ditch effort by abortion providers to resume services after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling on Friday.
The order was confirmed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented abortion providers. Abortion performed up to the sixth week of pregnancy may now be resumed in some Texas clinics, the legal groups said.
“Every hour that abortion is accessible in Texas is a victory,” Marc Hearron, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.
“Any day clinics can stay open will save countless people from the life-changing risks and consequences of forced pregnancy,” the ACLU also said on Twitter.
Texas last year enacted one of the country’s most restrictive abortion bans, barring people from undergoing the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy. At this point, many don’t know they’re pregnant. That law, which also allows people to sue anyone who facilitates an abortion, was enacted in September.
Tuesday’s decision came amid a series of lawsuits by abortion rights groups seeking to delay or end Republican-backed restrictions on women’s ability to terminate pregnancies — rules now in effect or ready to do so in 22 states.
On Monday, a judge in the US state of Louisiana temporarily blocked the enactment of a so-called “trigger” abortion ban after an abortion clinic filed a lawsuit alleging the restrictions violated due process and were too vague.
Texas is one of more than a dozen US states with such “trigger” laws on the books, designed to go into effect after Roe was destroyed.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an advisory (pdf) following the Supreme Court’s decision. He said the state’s 2021 trigger ban, which bans abortions almost completely, would not take effect immediately. Providers say this could take two months or more.
But Paxton said prosecutors could choose to immediately prosecute criminal cases “based on violations of Texas abortion bans that predate Roe.”
“While these statutes were unenforceable while Roe was on the books, they are still Texas law. Under these pre-Roe statutes, as of today, abortion providers can be held criminally liable for providing abortions,” his note said.
Today’s landmark decision culminates generations of Pro-Life activism in defense of the unborn.
Texas laws are clear – abortion is now illegal in the Lone Star State.
I will work tirelessly to ensure that our laws are fully enforced, and that life is protected in Texas.
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) June 24, 2022
Meanwhile, abortion providers in Texas have said that if the laws are blocked, they will continue to provide services.
“We are already contacting patients on our waiting lists and working to resume abortion services at all our 4 Texas clinics as soon as possible,” Whole Woman’s Health, an independent abortion provider, said on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.
“Please note that Texas still has a two-visit and 24-hour wait requirement, a six-week ban and other restrictions. Even with these hurdles, our clinic staff is ready to welcome patients back,” the group said.
There will be another hearing on 12 July.
Paxton’s office did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters on Tuesday.