Texas Supreme Court Blocks Order That Resumed Abortions

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court has blocked a lower court order that had allowed clinics in the state to continue performing abortions even after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it’s landmark 1973 ruling that confirmed a constitutional right to abortion.

Although it was unclear whether Texas abortion clinics, which had resumed offering the service just days before the Friday ruling, would stop providing services after the decision late Friday night. An appeal hearing will be held later in the month.

The whiplash of Texas clinics turning away patients, rescheduling them, and now potentially canceling appointments again — all in the span of a week — illustrates the confusion and scrambling that has taken place across the country since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

A Tuesday order from a Houston judge had given some clinics the assurance that they can temporarily resume abortions until six weeks after conception. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly asked the state’s highest court, which is stocked with nine Republican justices, to temporarily put that order on hold.

“These laws are confusing, unnecessary, and cruel,” said Marc Hearron, attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, after the order was issued Friday night.

Clinics in Texas — a state of nearly 30 million people — stopped performing abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court last week overturned Roe v. Wade. Texas has had an abortion ban in effect for 50 years, even though Roe was still in force.

Attorneys for Texas clinics provided a copy of Friday’s order, which was not immediately available on the court’s website.

Both patients and providers of abortion have had to struggle with the new legal environment surrounding access and laws.

A law in Florida banning abortions within 15 weeks of birth went into effect on Friday. This came after a judge declared it illegal and promised to sign an interim order blocking the law. It could also have more implications for South Florida, which has greater access than the rest of the country to this procedure.

In Kentucky, abortion rights were lost and gained in a matter of days. A so-called trigger law imposing a near-total ban on the procedure took effect last Friday, but a judge blocked the law Thursday, meaning the state’s only two abortion providers can resume seeing patients — for now.

The legal wrangling is almost certain to continue to cause chaos for Americans seeking abortions in the near future, with court rulings upending access at a moment’s notice and an influx of new patients from out of state overwhelming providers.

If women are traveling to other states that have abortion bans, there may be less options for them to terminate their pregnancies. The possibility of being prosecuted could also apply.

Planned Parenthood of Montana this week stopped providing medication abortions to patients who live in states with bans “to minimize potential risk for providers, health center staff, and patients in the face of a rapidly changing landscape.”

Planned Parenthood North Central States offers this procedure in Minnesota and Iowa. It tells its patients they have to take the two pills in the regimen in any state that permits abortions.

Since 2000 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone (the main medication used for abortions), abortion pills have been the preferred method of ending a pregnancy. The abortion pill is made when it’s combined with misoprostol. This drug causes cramping, which empties your womb.

“There’s a lot of confusion and concern that the providers may be at risk, and they are trying to limit their liability so they can provide care to people who need it,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman, who directs the research group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health at the University of California San Francisco.

Emily Bisek, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood North Central States, said that in an “unknown and murky” legal environment, they decided to tell patients they must be in a state where it is legal to complete the medication abortion — which requires taking two drugs 24 to 48 hours apart. According to her, most people from countries that ban abortions will opt for surgical abortions.

Access to the pills has become a key battle in abortion rights, with the Biden administration preparing to argue states can’t ban a medication that has received FDA approval.

Kim Floren, who operates an abortion fund in South Dakota called Justice Empowerment Network, said the development would further limit women’s choices.

“The purpose of these laws anyways is to scare people,” Floren said of states’ bans on abortions and telemedicine consultations for medication abortions. “The logistics to actually enforcing these is a nightmare, but they rely on the fact that people are going to be scared.”

Friday saw the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners adopt a law that will threaten to make anyone who gives medication for abortion without licensure a felon.

In Alabama, Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office said it is reviewing whether people or groups could face prosecution for helping women fund and travel to out-of-state abortion appointments.

Yellowhammer Fund is an Alabama-based organization that assists low-income women with travel and abortion expenses. It has halted operations for two weeks due not to have clarity in state law.

“This is a temporary pause, and we’re going to figure out how we can legally get you money and resources and what that looks like,” said Kelsea McLain, Yellowhammer’s health care access director.

Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said staff members at its clinics have seen women driving from as far as Texas without stopping — or making an appointment. The executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Laura Goodhue said women over 15 weeks old were asked for their personal information. She promised to call them back if the judge temporarily blocks the restriction.

There is still concern about the fact that the temporary order could be a misinterpretation of the law and may not come back into effect until then, creating further confusion.

“It’s terrible for patients,” she said. “We are really nervous about what is going to happen.”

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