The Texas Supreme Court has blocked a lower court order that said clinics could continue performing abortions, just days after some doctors had resumed seeing patients following 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 whiplash of Texas clinics turning away patients, rescheduling them, and now potentially canceling appointments again — all in the span of a week — illustrated the confusion and scrambling taking place across the country since Roe was overturned.
It came as President Joe Biden told Democratic governors he is “looking at all the alternatives” for protecting abortion access.
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 Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asking the state’s highest court, which is stocked with nine Republican justices, to temporarily put the order on hold.
“These laws are confusing, unnecessary, and cruel,” said Marc Hearron, lawyer for the Centre 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 and ended 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.
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 went 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 so-called 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.
The legal wrangling is almost certain to continue to cause chaos for Americans seeking abortions in the near future, with court rulings able to upend access at a moment’s notice and an influx of new patients from out of state overwhelming providers.
Even when women travel outside states with abortion bans in place, they may have fewer options to end their pregnancies as the prospect of prosecution follows them.