It was not immediately clear whether clinics in Texas that had seen patients again this week would discontinue services again. A hearing is scheduled for later this month.
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The whiplash of Texas clinics rejecting patients, rescheduling them, and now potentially canceling appointments again — all in the span of a week — illustrated the confusion and scrambling that had taken place across the country since Roe was destroyed.
An order from a Houston judge earlier this week had reassured some clinics that they could temporarily resume abortions up to six weeks into the pregnancy. That was quickly followed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who asked the state’s highest court, which is filled with nine Republican judges, to temporarily put the warrant on hold.
SEE ALSO: Abortions before 6 weeks can be resumed in Texas after court order
“These laws are confusing, unnecessary and cruel,” Marc Hearron, attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said after the order was issued Friday night.
Texas clinics had stopped performing abortions in the state of nearly 30 million people after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week, 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.
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A copy of Friday’s warrant was provided by attorneys at Texas clinics. It was not immediately available on the court’s website.
Abortion providers and patients across the country are struggling to navigate the changing legal landscape surrounding 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 injunction next week temporarily blocking the law. The ban could have broader implications in the South, where Florida has more access to proceedings than its neighbors.
In Kentucky, abortion rights have been lost and regained in a matter of days. A so-called trigger law imposing an almost complete 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 continue to see patients — for now.
The legal wrangling will almost certainly continue to wreak havoc for Americans seeking abortions for the foreseeable future, with court rulings potentially disrupting access in the blink of an eye and an influx of new patients from overwhelming out-of-state providers.
Even when women travel outside of states that have banned abortions, they may have fewer options to terminate their pregnancy as the prospect of prosecution follows them.
Planned Parenthood of Montana this week stopped providing drug abortions to patients living in banned states “to minimize the potential risk to caregivers, health center staff and patients in the face of a rapidly changing landscape.”
Planned Parenthood North Central States, which offers the procedure in Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, tells its patients to take both pills in the regimen in a state that allows abortions.
Using abortion pills has been the most common method of terminating a pregnancy since 2000, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone — the main drug used in drug-induced abortions. When combined with misoprostol, a drug that causes cramps and drains the uterus, it makes up the abortion pill.
“There’s a lot of confusion and concern that the health care providers may be at risk, and they’re trying to limit their liability so they can provide care to people who need it,” says Dr. Daniel Grossman, who leads the Advancing New Standards research group. in reproductive health from the University of California at San Francisco.
Emily Bisek, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood North Central States, said she decided in an “unknown and murky” legal environment to tell patients that they must be in a state where it is legal to complete the drug abortion – which two medications 24 to 48 hours apart. She said most patients from banned states are expected to opt for surgical abortions.
Access to the pills has become a major abortion rights battle, with the Biden administration preparing to argue that states can’t ban a drug approved by the FDA.
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Kim Floren, who runs an abortion fund in South Dakota called the Justice Empowerment Network, said the development would further limit women’s choices.
“The purpose of these laws is to scare people anyway,” Floren said of states’ bans on abortions and telemedicine consultations for drug abortions. “The logistics of actually enforcing this one is a nightmare, but they trust that people will be scared.”
A South Dakota law went into effect Friday and threatens a felony penalty for anyone prescribing drugs for an abortion without a license from the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners.
In Alabama, Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office said it is investigating whether individuals or groups could be prosecuted for helping women fund and travel to out-of-state abortion appointments.
Yellowhammer Fund, an Alabama-based group helping low-income women to cover abortion and travel expenses, said it is suspending the operation for two weeks due to lack of clarity about state law.
“This is a temporary hiatus and we’re going to figure out how to legally get money and resources for you and what that looks like,” said Kelsea McLain, director of access to health care at Yellowhammer.
Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said staff at the clinics have seen women from even Texas drive without stopping — or making an appointment. Women over 15 weeks of age were asked to leave their information and promised to call back if a judge signs the order temporarily blocking the restriction, she said.
Still, there are concerns that the order is only temporary and the law could come back into effect at a later date, creating further confusion.
“It’s terrible for patients,” she said. “We’re very nervous about what’s going to happen.”
Izaguirre reported from Tallahassee, Florida, and Groves reported from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. AP writers Dylan Lovan contributed from Louisville, Kentucky; Adriana Gomez Licon from Miami; and Kim Chandler of Montgomery, Alabama.
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