One day after a federal judge rules to block the strict heartbeat bill in the state of Texas, one abortion provider is resuming services for patients who have been seeking to terminate their pregnancy beyond the law’s six week limit.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, who is the chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health, spoke with reporters and stated that ever since the law went into effect at the beginning of September, the provider, which has a total of four clinics in the Lone Star State, has been putting folks beyond the six week limit on waiting lists.
“So those folks were able to come in and we did provide them with abortion care today,” Hagstrom Miller went on to say during her chat with reporters over the phone.
Miller did not provide any details concerning which of the four locations began offering services again, nor did she discuss how many abortions have been done.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin on Wednesday blocked the state from enforcing the law while litigation over its legality continues. The Republican-backed measure empowers private citizens to enforce the ban, and Texas immediately appealed the ruling to the conservative-leaning Fifth Circuit Appeals Court.
The law has become a flashpoint in a national battle over abortion rights as Republican lawmakers in other states try to pass similar legislation. In December, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a Mississippi case testing Roe v. Wade, its landmark 1973 decision that established the nationwide right to abortion access.
Drexel University law professor David Cohen said Texas clinics that resume their previous abortion services while the law is blocked will be in a “very precarious position.” A clause in the law says providers can still be sued if the law goes back into effect after being struck down by a court.
“Cohen said that even if Pitman’s injunction against the law were upheld by the Supreme Court on appeal, it could still be dissolved by a subsequent decision overturning Roe v. Wade, because that decision was the basis for Pitman’s ruling,” the report continued.
Miller later stated that the retroactive clause is something that really worries many medical professionals.
“Any abortion you provide, even with an injunction, could be seen as criminal a year from now, six months from now – and you could be held accountable for every one of those. It’s pretty daunting to think about that,” she explained.
Anti-abortion activists have responded to this by saying that if Pitman’s ruling is reversed on appeal, they fully plan to file lawsuits against the providers that have started offering abortions again.
“As this case develops, if there’s an opportunity for lawsuits or for enforcement in the future, that’s something that the pro-life movement is very interested in,” John Seago, legislative director for anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life made clear in a statement.