Abortions resume in some Texan clinics after judge stops the law | US politics

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Abortions were quickly resumed in at least six Texan clinics after a federal judge stopped the most restrictive abortion law in the US, but other doctors remained hesitant because they feared the court order might not last long and they will come back throwing in jail would put legal endangerment.

It was unclear how many abortions Texan clinics had performed Thursday after U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman suspended bill known as Senate Bill 8, which since early September has banned abortions once cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks.

Prior to the 113-page order late Wednesday, other courts had refused to stop the law that bans abortion before some women even know they are pregnant.

“There is indeed hope from patients and staff, and I think there is a little desperation in that hope,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas. She said some of these clinics performed abortions Thursday but didn’t reveal how many.

“People know this opportunity might be short-lived,” she said.

According to all reports, the ruling did not result in a quick return to normalcy in Texas.

At least six clinics in Texas resumed or are preparing to resume abortion services Thursday, said Kelly Krause, spokeswoman for the Center for Reproductive Rights. Before the law went into effect on September 1, there were about two dozen abortion clinics in Texas.

Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest abortion provider, didn’t say on Thursday whether abortions have resumed, highlighting the ongoing uncertainty and the possibility of an appeals court quickly reinstating the law in the coming days. Fund Choice Texas, which pays travel expenses for women trying to have an abortion, was still receiving a large number of calls Thursday from patients who needed help making appointments outside of the state.

The 20 calls had about the normal volume in the past month, said managing director Anna Rupani. She said her organization – which has helped Texan women travel as far as Seattle and Los Angeles – is still debating whether it would help a patient get an abortion in Texas even if there is an injunction.

Texas law leaves enforcement only to individuals who are entitled to $ 10,000 in damages if they bring successful lawsuits not only against abortion providers who violate restrictions, but against anyone who helps a woman get an abortion reach. Republicans designed the law to allow retroactive actions if the restrictions were lifted by one court but later reintroduced by another.

“What’s really frustrating … is that this law was designed to create confusion and this law was designed to create problems,” said Rupani that means to her. “

The office of Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the state’s intention to appeal but was due to do so on Thursday.

“We are confident the appeals courts will agree that every child with a heartbeat should have a chance at life,” said Renae Eze, a spokeswoman for Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who signed the bill in May.

Hagstrom Miller said her Texan clinics called some patients on a list early Thursday in case the law was blocked at some point. Additional appointments were made for the next few days and the phone lines were busy again. But some of the clinics’ 17 doctors still refused to abort, fearing they might be held accountable despite a court order.

Pitman’s order marked the first legal blow to Senate Law 8, which had withstood a wave of previous challenges. In the weeks since the restrictions went into effect, Texas abortion providers have said the impact “has been exactly what we feared”.

In the statement, Pitman challenged Texas, saying Republican lawmakers had “invented an unprecedented and transparent legal system” in trying to evade judicial review.

“Since SB 8 went into effect, women have been illegally prevented from controlling their lives in a way protected by the constitution,” wrote Pitman, who was appointed to the bank by former President Barack Obama.

“It is up to them for other courts to find a way to avoid this conclusion; This court will not punish this insulting deprivation of such an important right for a day. “

The lawsuit was brought by the Biden administration, which said the restrictions were in violation of the US Constitution. Attorney General Merrick Garland called the order “a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law.”

Abortion providers say their fears have become a reality in the short time the law went into effect. According to Planned Parenthood, the number of Texas patients at its clinics in the state has decreased by nearly 80% in the two weeks since the law went into effect.

Some providers have said that Texas clinics are now in danger of closing while neighboring states are struggling to keep up with a deluge of patients who have to drive hundreds of kilometers to get an abortion. Other women, they say, are being forced to carry pregnancies to term.

How many abortions have been performed in Texas since the law went into effect is unknown. State health officials say additional reporting requirements under the law won’t make the September data available on their website until early next year.

Other states, especially in the south, have passed similar laws banning abortions in the first few weeks of pregnancy, all of which have been blocked by judges. A 1992 US Supreme Court ruling prevented states from banning abortions before viability, the point at which a fetus can survive outside the uterus, approximately 24 weeks after pregnancy.

But the Texas version had so far outmaneuvered the courts by leaving enforcement to private individuals, not prosecutors, which critics say is a bounty.

Texas law is just one that has set the largest test of abortion rights in the United States in decades, and it is part of a broader push by Republicans across the country to impose new abortion restrictions.

On Monday, the US Supreme Court launched a new term that will include arguments in December for Mississippi’s offer to support the landmark Roe v. Wade from 1973, which guarantees a woman’s right to abortion.

Last month, the court failed to rule on the constitutionality of Texas law that allowed it to remain in effect. But abortion providers viewed those 5-4 votes as an ominous sign of where the court might go on abortion after its conservative majority was bolstered with three appointments from former President Donald Trump.

Stengle contributed from Dallas.

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