US appeals court lets Texas resume ban on most abortions

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – A federal appeals court on Friday night quickly allowed Texas to reinstate most abortions just a day after clinics began caring for patients for the first time since early September. A unilateral order for the 5th U.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – A federal appeals court on Friday night quickly allowed Texas to reinstate most abortions just a day after clinics began caring for patients for the first time since early September.

A unilateral order from the U.S. 5th Court of Appeals reinstated the country’s strictest abortion law, which prohibits abortion once cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks. She makes no exceptions to rape or incest.

“Patients are thrown back into a state of chaos and fear,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents several Texas clinics that have temporarily resumed normal abortion services.

She called on the US Supreme Court to “step in and stop this madness.”

The clinics had prepared for the New Orleans appeals court to act quickly after President Barack Obama-appointed US District Judge Robert Pitman on Wednesday overturned Texas law, which he called an “insulting deprivation” of the constitutional right to abortion. Knowing the order might not last long, a handful of Texan clinics immediately began performing abortions beyond six weeks and booked new appointments for that weekend.

But it was barely 48 hours before the appeals court accepted Texas’s motion to overturn Pitman’s decision, for the time being at least, except for further arguments. It gave the Biden administration, who filed the lawsuit, Tuesday time to act.

“Great news tonight,” tweeted Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton. “I will fight the attacks of the federal government at every turn.”

Texas had about two dozen abortion clinics before the law went into effect on September 1. During the short time the law was put on hold, many Texas doctors were unwilling to perform abortions for fear that it would still put them legally at risk.

The new law threatens abortion providers in Texas with lawsuits from private individuals who, if successful, can claim at least $ 10,000 in damages. This novel approach to enforcement is why Texas was able to bypass an earlier wave of legal challenges before this week.

The 5th District Court of Appeals had the law enacted back in September and stepped in just hours after Paxton’s office urged them to act.

His office told the court that since the state does not enforce the law, it cannot be held responsible for filings from private individuals that Texas cannot prevent.

It is unclear how many abortions were performed in Texan clinics in the short time the law was put on hold. On Thursday, at least six abortion providers had resumed normal service or were preparing to do so, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Prior to Pitman’s ardent 113-page order, other courts had refused to stop the law prohibiting abortion before some women even knew they were pregnant. This includes the Supreme Court, which in September allowed it to go ahead without ruling on its constitutionality.

One of the first providers to resume normal service this week was Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, said their clinics would have admitted some patients on a list early Thursday if the law were at some point blocked. Further appointments were planned for the next few days and the telephone lines were busy again. However, some of the clinics’ 17 doctors still refused to abort because of the legal risk.

Pitman’s order was the first legal blow to what is known as Senate Law 8. In the weeks since the restrictions went into effect, Texan abortion providers have said the impact “has been exactly what we feared”.

According to Planned Parenthood, the number of Texas patients in the state’s clinics has decreased by nearly 80% in the two weeks since the law went into effect. Some providers have said that Texas clinics will now be closed while neighboring states are struggling to keep up with the flood of patients who have to drive hundreds of miles 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.

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 has so far outmaneuvered the courts by allowing private enforcement to file lawsuits, not prosecutors, which critics say is a bounty.

“This is an answered prayer,” said Kimberlyn Schwartz, spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group.


Associated Press Writer Jamie Stengle contributed from Dallas.

Paul J. Weber, The Associated Press

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