Texas Supreme Court blocks order that resumed abortions

Mahayana Landowne, of Brooklyn, N.Y., wears a "Lady Justice" costume as she marches past the Supreme Court during a protest for abortion-rights, Thursday, June 30, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Jacquelyn Martin, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Texas Supreme Court blocked an order that had briefly allowed some clinics to resume abortions in the state, the latest development in legal scrambles across the U.S. since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

The court on Friday night stopped a three-day-old order by a Houston judge who said clinics could resume abortions up to six weeks into pregnancy. The practical impact of the decision was difficult to measure at the start of the holiday weekend.

Planned Parenthood's affiliates in Texas had not resumed abortion services even after the restraining order was put in place Tuesday.

“Nothing has changed operationally with the state Supreme Court’s ruling,” spokeswoman Ianthe Metzger said.

Whole Woman’s Health, which has four Texas clinics, had said it would start working through a waiting list and resume abortion services, but that was before the Supreme Court intervened at the request of Attorney General Ken Paxton. No one at Whole Woman's Health could immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

At issue is a long-dormant 1925 criminal law that targets individuals who perform abortions. Clinics had argued that it was invalid after abortion became a constitutional right across the U.S. in 1973. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, struck down the landmark Roe decision June 24, leaving abortion policy to states.

“Pro-life victory! ... Litigation continues, but I’ll keep winning for Texas’s unborn babies,” Paxton, a Republican, said via Twitter.

Separately, Texas has a 2021 law that was designed to ban abortion in the event that Roe were overturned. It takes effect in the weeks ahead.

“Extremist politicians are on a crusade to force Texans into pregnancy and childbirth against their will, no matter how devastating the consequences,” said Julia Kaye of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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, the day after a judge called it a violation of the state constitution and said he would sign an order temporarily blocking it next week. The ban could have broader implications in the South, as Florida currently allows greater access to the procedure than neighboring states.

Even when women travel outside states with abortion bans, they may have fewer options to end their pregnancies as the prospect of prosecution follows them.

Planned Parenthood of Montana this week stopped providing medication abortions to patients who live in states with bans.

Planned Parenthood North Central States, which offers the procedure in Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, is telling patients they must take both pills in the regimen while in a state that allows abortion.

The use of pills has been the most common method to end a pregnancy since 2000, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone, the main drug used in medication abortions. Taken with misoprostol, a drug that causes cramping that empties the womb, it constitutes the abortion pill.

Also Friday, Google, the company behind the internet’s dominant search engine and the Android software that powers most smartphones, said it would automatically purge information about users who visit abortion clinics or other places that could trigger potential legal problems.

In addition to abortion clinics, Google cited counseling centers, fertility centers, addiction treatment facilities, weight loss clinics and cosmetic surgery clinics as destinations that will be erased from users’ location histories. Users have always had the option to edit their location histories on their own, but now Google will do it for them as an added level of protection.

“We’re committed to delivering robust privacy protections for people who use our products, and we will continue to look for new ways to strengthen and improve these protections,” Jen Fitzpatrick, a Google senior vice president, wrote in a blog post.

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White reported from Detroit.