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EXPLANATION: The Rapid Impact and Future of Texas Abortion Law

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Most abortions in Texas are banned again after clinics that had rushed to provide them on a two-day legal stay canceled appointments on Saturday following a ruling of the Whiplash Appeal Court.

The 5th U.S. Court of Appeals issued a one-page order Friday night reinstating a Texas law that bans abortions once medical professionals can detect heart activity, typically around six weeks – and before some women know they are pregnant.

Enforcement of the country’s strictest abortion law is left to private citizens who are responsible for bringing civil suits against abortion providers, as well as others who help a woman get an abortion in the country. Texas. Since it took effect in September, clinics in other states, including neighboring Louisiana and Oklahoma, have been inundated with patients from Texas.

Friday’s New Orleans 5th Circuit ordinance is just the latest in the legal battle over Texas law known as Senate Bill 8. It came two days after an Austin federal judge suspended the law, allowing providers to resume abortions.

Here are some questions and answers about the law and the next steps:

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WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT?

Abortion providers say the ramifications have been punitive and “exactly what we feared.” Some women are forced to carry their pregnancies to term, they say, or wait in the hope that the courts will strike down the law.

More than 100 pages of court records in September offered the most comprehensive overview of how Texas’ near-total abortion ban has unfolded. Doctors and executives at nearly two dozen Texas abortion clinics have described turning down hundreds of patients, and some who showed up for appointments were unable to continue because heart activity was detected. .

A Planned Parenthood location in Houston normally performed about two dozen abortions per day, but within 10 days of the law coming into force, the clinic performed 52 in total.

Clinics in neighboring states, meanwhile, say care for their own residents is being delayed to accommodate women making long trips from Texas. Doctors say recent Texas patients have included rape victims because the law makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

Whole Women’s Health has four clinics in Texas and was among providers who performed abortions in the state Thursday and Friday, after the lower court ruling cleared them. President and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said she did not have the number of abortions performed during the stay.

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WHAT WAS THE LANDSCAPE IN TEXAS BEFORE?

More than 55,000 abortions were performed last year in Texas, which already had some of the country’s toughest abortion laws, including a ban after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Abortion providers in Texas have had the experience of abrupt resumption of operations. In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, abortions in Texas were virtually banned for weeks on the orders of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott who postponed surgeries “not immediately medically necessary.”

But providers were reporting staffing issues and worried some clinics would close permanently. Ten years ago, Texas had more than 40 abortion clinics, but more than half of them have closed for good in a protracted legal battle over a 2013 law that was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court.

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WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The Biden administration could send the case back to the Supreme Court and ask judges to swiftly restore the federal judge’s order that blocked the law.

The law has already made a trip to the Supreme Court. The judges voted 5-4 not to intervene to prevent it from taking effect, but said further challenges were possible. With the Biden administration’s challenge underway, the law could quickly come back to the judges.

The federal judge who suspended the law – Robert Pitman, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama – wrote in a dazzling 113-page opinion that the law was an “offensive denial” of the constitutional right to abortion.

Whether the Biden administration’s trial – which calls it “clearly unconstitutional” – was likely to succeed was a factor that prompted Pitman to suspend the law.

Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group and a driving force behind the new law, applauded the fact that it stopped abortions every day it was in effect.

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HOW ARE OTHER STATES RESPONDING?

After the Texas law came into effect, Republican lawmakers from at least half a dozen states said they would consider introducing similar bills, with the aim of implementing the type abortion crackdown they have been seeking for years. These states include Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Meanwhile, two dozen state attorneys general, all Democrats, submitted a brief in the Biden administration’s trial, claiming that a substantial reduction in abortion access in a state would lead to overcharging. health systems elsewhere.

The Portland, Oregon city council briefly considered a Texas business boycott under the new law, but instead decided to set aside $ 200,000 to fund reproductive care.

The growing anti-abortion campaign is aimed at reaching the Supreme Court of the United States. Abortion opponents hope the conservative coalition united under President Donald Trump will end the constitutional right to abortion as established by the High Court in the landmark Roe v. Wade from 1973.

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