Judge blocks ban on some Texas abortions during outbreak

A federal judge has blocked the enforcement, in some cases, of an executive order banning abortions in Texas during the coronavirus pandemic

AUSTIN, Texas -- A federal judge has ordered that Texas abortion clinics may continue to perform abortions in some cases, either those using medication or those involving patients for whom delays would pose an essential ban.

The ruling came in a 16-page opinion filed Thursday by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin and appears to fly in the face of an appeals court ruling that upheld a ban imposed by Gov. Greg Abbott last month.

Planned Parenthood and other clinics then asked Yeakel to allow abortions in some cases, including medication abortions and abortions in which a delay would push a pregnancy past the state's legal cutoff of 22 weeks, making the procedure illegal.

Such a delay would constitute "an absolute ban on abortion," which the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed unconstitutional, Yeakel concluded in his opinion.

Abbott’s original March 22 order was to expire April 21 but can be extended.

Similar legal fights are being waged in Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma and Iowa.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton lashed out against Yeakel's latest order, saying it “defies” the appeals court ruling and “demonstrates a lack of respect for the rule of law.” He vowed, "We will once again ask the Fifth Circuit to uphold Governor Abbott’s decision to stop all elective medical procedures during the COVID-19 crisis.”