AUSTIN, TX (AP) – The Texas Supreme Court blocked a lower court order Friday night that clinics could continue to perform abortions, just days after some doctors began seeing patients again following the fall of Roe v . Wade.
It was not immediately clear whether clinics in Texas that had started seeing patients again 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 space of a week – illustrated the confusion and scrambling taking place across the country since Roe was overthrown.
An order issued by a Houston judge earlier this week had reassured some clinics that they could temporarily resume abortions up to six weeks pregnant. This was quickly followed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asking the state’s highest court, which has nine Republican justices, to temporarily suspend the order.
“These laws are confusing, unnecessary and cruel,” Marc Hearron, attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said after the order was released Friday night.
Clinics in Texas stopped performing abortions in the state of nearly 30 million after the U.S. Supreme Court last week overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the 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 the Texas clinics. It could not immediately be found on the court’s website.
Abortion providers and patients across the country are 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 wider implications in the South, where Florida has greater access to the procedure than its neighbors.
The right to abortion was lost and regained in the space of a few days in Kentucky. A so-called trigger law mandating a near-total ban on the procedure went into effect last Friday, but a judge blocked the law Thursday, meaning the state’s only two abortion providers can start seeing again. patients – for now.
Legal wrangling is almost certain to continue to wreak havoc on Americans seeking abortions in the near future, with court rulings capable of upending access at any time and an influx of new patients from overwhelming providers. from out of state.
Even when women travel outside states where abortion is banned, they may have fewer options for terminating their pregnancies as the prospect of prosecution follows them.
Planned Parenthood of Montana this week stopped providing medical abortions to patients who live in prohibited states “to minimize potential risks to 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, tells its patients they must take both diet pills in a state that allows abortions.
The use of abortion pills has been the most common method of terminating a pregnancy since 2000, when the United States Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone, the main drug used in medical abortions. Taken with misoprostol, a drug that causes cramps that empty the uterus, it is called the abortion pill.
“There’s a lot of confusion and concern that providers might be at risk, and they’re trying to limit their liability so they can provide care to people who need it,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman, who leads the Advancing New Standards research group. in reproductive health at the University of California, San Francisco.
Emily Bisek, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood North Central States, said in an “unknown and murky” legal environment, they decided to tell patients they must be in a state where it is legal to complete an abortion. medicated – which requires taking two medications 24 to 48 hours apart. She said most patients in banning states should opt for surgical abortions.
Access to pills has become a key battle in abortion rights, with the Biden administration preparing to argue that states cannot ban a drug that has received FDA approval.
Kim Floren, who runs an abortion fund in South Dakota called the Justice Empowerment Network, said the development would further limit women’s choices.
“The purpose of these laws is to scare people off anyway,” Floren said of state bans on abortions and telemedicine consultations for medical abortions. “The logistics of getting them enforced is a nightmare, but they’re counting on people being scared.”
A South Dakota law went into effect Friday that threatens criminal punishment for anyone who prescribes abortion drugs without a license from the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners.
In Alabama, Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office said it is considering whether individuals or groups could be prosecuted for helping women fund and attend abortion appointments outside of the state. ‘State.
Yellowhammer Fund, an Alabama-based group that helps low-income women with abortion and travel costs, said it was halting operations for two weeks due to unclear state law. .
“This is a temporary pause, and we will work out how we can get money and resources to you legally and what that looks like,” said Kelsea McLain, director of healthcare access at Yellowhammer.
Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said staff at her clinics have seen women driving from as far away as Texas without stopping — or making an appointment. Women who passed 15 weeks were asked to leave their information and promised to be called back if a judge signed the order temporarily blocking the restriction, she said.
Still, there are fears that the ordinance is only temporary and that the law could come into force again later, creating further confusion.
“It’s terrible for the patients,” she says. “We’re really nervous about what’s going to happen.”
Izaguirre reported from Tallahassee, Florida, and Groves reported from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. AP writers Dylan Lovan contributed from Louisville, Kentucky; Miami’s Adriana Gomez Licon; and Kim Chandler of Montgomery, Alabama.
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