Abortion resumed in at least six Texas clinics after a federal judge struck down the most restrictive abortion law in the US, but other physicians were hesitant, fearing the court’s order would not last long and they would be returned. would put you in legal jeopardy.
It was unclear how many Texas clinics performed Thursday after US District Judge Robert Pittman suspended a law known as Senate Bill 8, which banned abortions after cardiac activity was detected since early September. was given, usually about six weeks.
Before the 113-page bombshell order late Wednesday, other courts had refused to stop the law, which bans abortions before some women become pregnant.
“There’s really hope from patients and staff, and I think there’s a little bit of hopelessness in that hope,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Women’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas. She said some of those clinics performed abortions on Thursday but did not say how many.
“People know this opportunity can be short-lived,” she said. By all accounts, the ruling did not herald a swift return to normal in Texas.
Center for Reproductive Rights spokeswoman Kelly Cross said at least six clinics in Texas resumed abortion services Thursday or were preparing to offer them again. There were about two dozen abortion clinics in Texas before the law went into effect on September 1.
The state’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, did not say Thursday whether it has resumed abortion, emphasizing ongoing uncertainty and the possibility of an appeals court having the law quickly reinstated in the coming days. . Fund Choice Texas, which covers travel expenses for women seeking abortions, was still receiving a high volume of calls Thursday from patients who needed help with out-of-state appointments.
Executive director Anna Rupani said the 20 calls were about the normal volume of the previous month. She said her organization – which has helped Texas women travel as far away as Seattle and Los Angeles – was still discussing whether it would help a patient in Texas get an abortion, even Even with a court injunction.
Texas law leaves enforcement only to private citizens, who are entitled to collect $10,000 in damages if they bring successful lawsuits against not only abortion providers who violate restrictions, but also anyone who allows a woman to obtain an abortion. helps to. Republicans have framed the law in a way that is designed to allow retrospective lawsuits if sanctions are set aside by one court but later put back in another.
“What really disappoints… was this law designed to create confusion, and this law was designed to create problems,” Rupani said. “It’s unfortunate that we have an injunction, and people are still having to understand the legal implications of what it means for them.”
Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office has given the state notice of intent to appeal, but has yet to do so Thursday.
“We are confident that the appellate courts will agree that every child with heart palpitations deserves a chance at life,” said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s spokesman Rene Eise.
Hagstrom Miller said his Texas clinics early Thursday called some patients who were on the list in case the law was blocked at some point. Other appointments were being scheduled for days to come, and phone lines were busy again. But 17 physicians from some clinics were still refusing to perform abortions, fearing they could be held liable despite the judge’s order.
Pittman’s order dealt the first legal blow to Senate Bill 8, which had faced earlier challenges. In the weeks after the restrictions went into effect, Texas abortion providers said the impact was “exactly what we feared.”
In the opinion, Pittman took Texas to task, saying that Republican lawmakers “made an unprecedented and transparent statutory plan” by trying to evade judicial review.
“Ever since SB 8 took effect, women have been barred from taking control of their lives in ways protected by the Constitution,” wrote Pittman, who was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama.
“What other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is their decision; this Court will not sanction another day for this aggressive deprivation of such an important right.”
The lawsuit was brought by the Biden administration, which has said the sanctions were implemented in defiance of the US Constitution. Attorney General Merrick Garland called the order “a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law.”
Abortionists say their fears have turned into reality in the short time since the law came into force. Planned Parenthood says the number of Texas patients at its clinics in the state has decreased by about 80% in the two weeks since the law took effect.
Some providers have said Texas clinics are now in danger of closure, while neighboring states struggle with a surge of patients who have to drive hundreds of miles to get an abortion. He says other women are being forced to conceive.
It is unknown how many abortions have occurred in Texas since the law took effect. State health officials say the additional reporting requirements under the law will not make the September figures available on their website until early next year.
In other states, mostly in the South, similar laws have been passed that ban abortions within the early weeks of pregnancy, all of which have been blocked by judges. A 1992 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited states from banning abortions before viability, at which point the fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
But the Texas version had so far overtaken the courts because it leaves private citizens to file a lawsuit, not prosecutors, which critics say equates to a bounty.
The Texas law is just one that has set up the largest test of abortion rights in the US in decades, and is part of a broader push by Republicans nationwide to introduce new restrictions on abortion.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court began a new term, in Mississippi’s bid in December in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade’s ruling, which guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion.
Last month, the court ruled on the constitutionality of the Texas law not allowing it to remain in place. But abortion providers took that 5-4 vote as an ominous sign that the court was going to take on abortion after former President Donald Trump’s conservative majority with three appointees.