In flurry of court activity, rulings on abortion bans mixed

A federal court Tuesday allowed Tennessee to ban abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy, while in Texas — which is already enforcing a similar ban based on an embryo’s cardiac activity — a judge temporarily blocked an even stricter decades-old law from taking effect.

The moves were among a flurry of action at courthouses across the country after the U.S. Supreme Court last week overturned Roe v. Wade and ruled that terminating a pregnancy is not a constitutional right.


Statewide bans or other restrictions that were either left on the books for generations, tied up by legal challenges or specifically designed to take effect if Roe were to fall are now in play as a result of the high court’s ruling. Roughly half the states are expected to prohibit or severely limit the procedure now that the high court has left it up to them.

Since Friday, judges have agreed to allow bans or other restrictions to take effect in Alabama, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee. But abortion bans remained temporarily blocked in some states, including Louisiana. Decisions are pending in Florida and Indiana, while abortion rights advocates dropped some of their legal efforts in Minnesota and Missouri.

Some clinics initially turned patients away after the high court ruling, then reopened as judges ruled in their favor. That happened in Louisiana on Tuesday. In Texas, at least one abortion provider said it would reopen after Tuesday’s ruling.

Texas already bans most abortions after about six weeks — before many women know they are pregnant — under a law that took effect in September and makes no exception in cases of rape or incest. But a judge in Houston, a Democratic city in a conservative state, blocked enforcement for now of an even stricter law that calls for a statewide ban on virtually all abortions.

That law has been on the books for decades but was nullified while Roe was in place. A separate, so-called trigger law that would prohibit virtually all abortions in Texas is set to take effect in coming months.

In Tennessee, the action by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a six-week ban came ahead of a trigger law that’s expected to further restrict abortion by mid-August, according to a legal interpretation by the state’s attorney general. Both measures would make performing an abortion a felony and subject doctors to up to 15 years in prison.

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