A federal appeals court has allowed Texas to resume the ban on most abortions, just a day after clinics began running to serve patients again for the first time since early September.
A one-page order from the U.S. 5th Court of Appeals restored the country’s strictest abortion law, which prohibits abortions once heart activity is detected, typically around six weeks.
The law makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents several clinics in Texas that have briefly resumed normal abortion services, said, “The patients are thrown back into a state of chaos and fear.
She called on the US Supreme Court to “step in and stop this madness”.
Clinics had prepared for the New Orleans appeals court to act quickly after U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, appointed by former U.S. President Barack Obama, suspended Texas law on Wednesday that he called it an “offensive deprivation” of the constitutional right to abortion.
Knowing the order might not last long, a handful of clinics in Texas immediately resumed performing abortions beyond six weeks and made new appointments for the weekend.
But barely 48 hours passed before the appeals court accepted Texas’ request to overturn Judge Pitman’s ruling – at least for now – pending further arguments.
He gave the Biden administration, which had filed the lawsuit, until Tuesday to respond.
“Great news tonight,” tweeted Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton. “I will fight the federal government’s excess at every turn.”
Texas had about two dozen abortion clinics before the law came into effect on September 1.
During the brief period that the law was suspended, many Texas doctors remained reluctant to perform abortions, fearing it would still put them in legal danger.
The new law threatens Texas abortion providers with lawsuits from private citizens, who are entitled to at least $ 10,000 (£ 7,350) in damages if successful.
This new approach to enforcement is why Texas was able to escape a previous wave of court challenges ahead of this week.