The Texas supreme court has blocked a lower court order that said clinics could continue performing abortions, 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 spate of Texas clinics turning away patients, rescheduling them, and now potentially cancelling 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 the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, asking the state’s highest court, which is stacked with Republican justices, to temporarily put the order on hold.
“These laws are confusing, unnecessary and cruel,” said Marc Hearron, the attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, after the order was issued on Friday night.
Clinics in Texas had stopped performing abortions in the state of nearly 30 million people after the US supreme court last week overturned Roe v Wade, ending 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 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 came into effect on 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 neighbours.
Abortion rights have been lost and regained in the span of a few days in Kentucky. A trigger law imposing a near total ban on the procedure took effect last Friday, but a judge blocked the law on Thursday, meaning the state’s only two abortion providers can resume seeing patients – for now.
Emily Bisek, a spokesperson 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 drugs 24 aan 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 that states cannot ban a medication that has received FDA approval.
A South Dakota law took effect on Friday that threatens a felony punishment for anyone who prescribes medication for an abortion without a licence from the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners.
In Alabama, the office of the attorney general, Steve Marshall, said it was reviewing whether people or groups could face prosecution for helping women fund and travel to out-of-state abortion appointments.