The Texas Supreme Court blocked a lower court order late Friday night that said clinics could continue performing abortions, just days after some doctors had resumed seeing patients after the fall of Roe v. Wade.
It was not immediately clear whether Texas clinics that had resumed seeing patients this week would halt services again. A hearing is scheduled for later this month.
The whiplash of Texas clinics turning away patients, rescheduling them and now potentially canceling appointments again — all in the span of a week — illustrated the confusion and scrambling taking place across the country since Roe was overturned.
An order by a Houston judge earlier this week had reassured some clinics they could temporarily resume abortions up to six weeks into pregnancy. That was quickly followed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asking the state’s highest court, which includes nine Republican justices, to temporarily put the order on hold.
Clinics in Texas had stopped performing abortions in the state of nearly 30 million people after the U.S. Supreme Court last week overturned Roe v. Wade, which purported to find a constitutional right to abortion. Texas had technically left an abortion ban on the books for the past 50 years while Roe was in place.
A copy of Friday’s order was provided by attorneys for Texas clinics. It could not immediately be found on the court’s website.
Abortion providers and patients across the country have been struggling to navigate the evolving legal landscape around abortion laws and access.
In Florida, a law banning abortions after 15 weeks went into effect Friday, the day after a judge called it a violation of the state constitution and said he would sign an order temporarily blocking the law next week. The ban could have broader implications in the South, where Florida has wider access to the procedure than its neighbors.
Abortion restrictions have been passed and overridden in the span of a few days in Kentucky. 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 will resume seeing patients — for now.
The legal wrangling is almost certain to continue in the near future, with court rulings able to halt abortions at a moment’s notice and an influx of new patients traveling from out of state to seek services elsewhere.
Even when women travel outside states with abortion bans in place, they may face the prospect of prosecution.
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, which offers the procedure in Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, is telling its patients that they must take both pills in the regimen in a state that allows abortions.
The use of abortion pills has been the most common method to end a pregnancy since 2000, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone — the main drug used in medication abortions. Taken with misoprostol, a drug that causes cramping that empties the womb, it constitutes the abortion pill.
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. She said most patients from states with bans are expected to 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.
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, an Alabama-based group that provides funding to low-income women for abortion and travel costs, said it is pausing operation for two weeks because of the lack of clarity under 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. Women who are past 15 weeks were being asked to leave their information and promised a call back if a judge signs the order temporarily blocking the restriction, she said.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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