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Texas judge blocks state's pre-Roe ban, allows some abortions to continue

A temporary restraining order issued by Judge Christine Weems means abortions done up to six weeks of gestation will be able to resume in the state.

By Sergio Martínez-Beltrán, The Texas Newsroom

A Harris County judge on Tuesday blocked Texas officials from enforcing a decades-old abortion ban, effectively allowing health providers to perform the procedure without the threat of prosecution.

With the temporary restraining order issued by Judge Christine Weems, abortions done up to six weeks of gestation will be able to resume in the state.

“It is a relief that this Texas state court acted so quickly to block this deeply harmful abortion ban,” Marc Hearron, the senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “This decision will allow abortion services to resume at many clinics across the state. … Every hour that abortion is accessible in Texas is a victory.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU of Texas, and two law firms joined forces Monday to represent a coalition of abortion providers in Texas and  challenge the pre-Roe ban.

A hearing for a temporary injunction has been set for July 12.

Currently, Texas bans the procedure after six weeks of gestation. A so-called trigger law passed last year by the Texas Legislature will eliminate nearly all abortions when it goes into effect 30 days after the court issues its judgment. That could happen in about a month, Attorney General Ken Paxton said.

The lawsuit came in response to Paxton’s  recentadvisory — published after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned abortion rights in Texas — in which he said prosecutors could pursue criminal charges against medical providers “based on violations of Texas abortion prohibitions predating Roe that were never repealed by the Texas Legislature.”

The  1925 law was in effect until the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade. It made performing an abortion punishable with up to five years in prison.

“Although these statutes were unenforceable while Roe was on the books, they are still Texas law,” Paxton claimed.

But plaintiffs claimed the old law had been repealed with the passage of  Roe v. Wade.