An order from a Houston judge on Tuesday assured some clinics that they could temporarily resume abortions up to six weeks of pregnancy. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly asked the state’s supreme court, which has nine Republican justices, to temporarily suspend that order.
“These laws are confusing, unnecessary and cruel,” Marc Hearron, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, said after the order was issued Friday night.
Clinics in Texas, a state of nearly 30 million people, stopped performing abortions after the US Supreme Court last week overturned Roe v. Wade. Texas had left an abortion ban on the books for the past 50 years while Roe was in effect.
Attorneys for the Texas clinics provided a copy of Friday’s order, which was not immediately available 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, a 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 broader access to the procedure than its neighbors.
The right to abortion has been lost and regained in the span of a few days in Kentucky. A so-called trigger law imposing a near-total ban on the procedure went into effect last Friday, but a judge blocked the law on Thursday, meaning the state’s only two abortion providers can resume caring for patients, for now. .
The legal dispute is almost certain to continue to wreak havoc for Americans seeking abortions for the foreseeable future, with court rulings barring access at any moment and an influx of new out-of-state patients overwhelming providers.
Even when women travel outside of states where abortion is prohibited, they may have fewer options to terminate their pregnancies as the prospect of prosecution hounds them.
This week, Planned Parenthood of Montana stopped providing medical abortions to patients living in states with bans “to minimize potential risk to providers, facility staff and patients in 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 pills in the regimen 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 US Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone, the main drug used in medical abortions. Taken with misoprostol, a drug that causes cramps that empty the womb, it constitutes the abortion pill.
“There is a lot of confusion and concern that 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 leads the Advancing New Standards research group. . in Reproductive Health from 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 medical abortion, which requires taking two medications with 24 48 hours apart. She said most patients in states with bans are expected to opt for surgical abortion.
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 options.
“The purpose of these laws is to scare people anyway,” Floren said of state bans on abortions and telemedicine consultations for medical abortions. “The logistics of enforcing this are a nightmare, but they are based on the fact that people will freak out.”
A South Dakota law went into effect Friday that threatens felony punishment for anyone who prescribes medication for an abortion without a license from the South Dakota Board of Osteopathic and Medical Examiners.
In Alabama, Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office said it is reviewing whether individuals or groups could face prosecution for helping women finance and travel to out-of-state abortion appointments.
The Yellowhammer Fund, an Alabama-based group that helps low-income women cover abortions and travel costs, said it will suspend the operation for two weeks due to a lack of clarity in state law.
“This is a temporary pause, and we’re going to figure out how we can get money and resources legally and what that looks like,” said Kelsea McLain, Yellowhammer’s director of health care access.
Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said staff members at her clinics have seen women driving from Texas without stopping or making an appointment. Women who are older than 15 weeks were asked to leave their information and promised they would be called back if a judge signs the order temporarily blocking the restriction, she said.
Still, there are concerns that the order may only be temporary and the law could come back into effect later, creating additional confusion.
“It’s terrible for patients,” he said. “We are very nervous about what is going to happen.”