HOUSTON – Abortion providers could resume abortions under the current “heartbeat law” typically at about six weeks without the fear of being charged with a crime, a Harris County judge decided Tuesday.
The judge granted a temporary restraining order, which will be in effect for two weeks until a temporary injunction is decided. That hearing is set for July 12.
This comes after several civil rights groups and abortion providers filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas over its abortion ban.
After the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe vs. Wade on Friday, the state’s trigger ban, which bans abortions almost entirely, was set to take effect in 30 days.
Under the ban, people who got abortions would not be prosecuted under the law, but doctors who performed illegal abortions could have been sentenced to life in prison or fined up to $100,000.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent an advisory on Friday that said, “abortion providers could be criminally liable for providing abortions starting today” based on state “abortion prohibitions pre-dating Roe.”
Today a Harris County judge froze pre-Roe laws criminalizing abortion in TX. But w/ SCOTUS’s Dobbs decision, these laws are 100% in effect & constitutional. The judge’s decision is wrong. I’m immediately appealing. I’ll ensure we have all the legal tools to keep TX pro-life!— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) June 28, 2022
The lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction was filed to block the enforcement, and before the new restrictions go into effect.
“Every day, every hour that abortion remains legal in Texas is a chance for more people to get the care they need,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Before the TRO was granted, Paxton released a statement on Twitter that read, “The pro-abortion left is—as expected—now suing me and the State of Texas to block our state’s pro-life laws. I anticipated this and am ready. They will lose. Texas laws defending the unborn will win.”
Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee was in support of Tuesday’s decision.
“I’m glad to see that a Harris County court blocked enforcement of pre-Roe anti-abortion laws that have been on the books since the 1920s. It’s shameful that Attorney General Ken Paxton would be encouraging prosecutors to go after medical providers under laws that are clearly no longer enforceable,” Menefee said. “It’s reprehensible that our Attorney General would invoke laws dating back to the 1920s – we all know what types of laws were on the books in the south during that time. Our state leadership should not be trying to take Texans back to those times.”