HOUSTON (Nexstar) — Texas providers at some clinics can temporarily resume abortions up to six weeks of pregnancy, a Harris County judge ruled on Tuesday.
The Harris County District Court judge’s ruling comes a day after a group of more than half a dozen abortion providers filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas over its pre-Roe laws Attorney General Ken Paxton said could now be enforced since Roe v. Wade was overturned.
“It is a relief that this Texas state court acted so quickly to block this deeply harmful abortion ban,” Marc Hearron, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a press release. “This decision will allow abortion services to resume at many clinics across the state, connecting Texans to the essential health care they need. Every hour that abortion is accessible in Texas is a victory.”
Last Friday, hours after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Dobbs v. Jackson opinion overturning the nearly 50-year precedent under Roe v. Wade, Paxton issued an advisory stating providers could again be held criminally liable for performing abortions. He cited a 1925 Texas statute that prohibited abortions in Texas. It was never repealed but nullified once the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision made it unconstitutional for states to restrict a woman’s ability to get an abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.
This judge’s order could be a short-lived victory for providers, only temporarily blocking that pre-Roe statute from being enforced until Texas’ new trigger law goes into effect. Within 30 days of the Supreme Court’s judgement — not opinion — being issued, almost all abortions in Texas will be outlawed. Typically, it has taken the high court about 25 days to issue a judgment after issuing the opinion.
In 2021, the Republican-led state legislature passed a law in anticipation of Roe v. Wade getting overturned that would trigger an abortion ban in Texas. The law does not give exceptions in the case of rape or incest but will allow for exceptions in the case of a “life-threatening condition to the mother caused by the pregnancy.”
Hours after the judge issued the temporary restraining order, Paxton announced he is “immediately appealing” the decision, in a post on Twitter.
“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!” Paxton tweeted.
Joe Pojman, the executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, echoed the attorney general’s sentiments and said he was not concerned about the legal action from providers hoping to block the pre-Roe law from being enforced.
“We think that is just a bump in the road and not a dead end for the pre-Roe laws. I think they will go back into effect in a matter of weeks and unborn babies will be protected,” Pojman said.
He noted that regardless of what happens with this case, the trigger law will still eventually kick in, banning the majority of abortions in Texas, 30 days after the Supreme Court issues a judgment for the Dobbs v. Jackson case.
The next hearing on this case is set for July 12, when the court will consider more permanent action.