A Texas judge has temporarily reinstated a law banning most abortions just one day after clinics began racing to serve patients again for the first time since early September.
A one-page order, made by the 5th US Court of Appeals, temporarily restored the nation’s strictest abortion law, known as Senate Bill 8, which bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected – usually around six weeks.
Nancy Northup, president of the Centre for Reproductive Rights, which represents several Texas clinics that had briefly resumed normal abortion services, said: “Patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear.”
She called on the US Supreme Court to “step in and stop this madness”.
At six weeks pregnant, it is common women will have not seen any physical changes to their body. Many will not yet know that they are pregnant.
Most abortions in England, Scotland and Wales are carried out before 24 weeks of pregnancy, and occasionally beyond that in limited circumstances.
The Texan law also makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
A handful of clinics braced themselves for the New Orleans-based appeals court to act fast, and hurriedly opened their doors to immediately start performing abortions again beyond the six weeks threshold.
The draconian law was suspended on Wednesday by US District Judge Robert Pitman, an appointee of former president Barack Obama, branding it an “offensive deprivation” of the constitutional right to an abortion.
But barely 48 hours passed before the appeals court set accepted Texas’ request to set aside Judge Pitman’s ruling – at least for now – pending further arguments. The Biden administration, which had brought the lawsuit, have been given until Tuesday to respond.
“Great news tonight,” Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted. “I will fight federal overreach at every turn.”
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) October 9, 2021
Texas had roughly two dozen abortion clinics before the law took effect on 1 September .
Planned Parenthood says the number of patients at its clinics in the state decreased by nearly 80% in the two weeks after the law was introduced.
Fearful it might land them in legal hot water, many Texas doctors remained unwilling to perform abortions while the law was on hold.
The new law threatens Texas abortion providers with lawsuits from private citizens, who are entitled to collect at least 10,000 dollars (£7,350) in damages if successful.
That novel approach to enforcement is the reason why Texas had been able to evade an earlier wave of legal challenges prior to this week.
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