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Abortion Ban Takes Effect In Tennessee, Paused In Texas

Roughly half the states are expected to prohibit or severely limit the procedure now that the high court has left it up to them.

Activists rally in front of City Hall, Saturday, June 25, 2022, in Los Angeles, as they protest the Supreme Court's ruling on abortion. (Image: AP/PTI)
Activists rally in front of City Hall, Saturday, June 25, 2022, in Los Angeles, as they protest the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion. (Image: AP/PTI)

Washington: A federal court has allowed Tennessee to ban abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy, while a Texas judge temporarily blocked enforcement of that state’s decades-old ban on virtually all abortions, in a flurry of activity set off at courthouses across the US by the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

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 last week’s Supreme Court ruling eliminating the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

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, Texas and Utah. Decisions are pending in other places, including Florida and Indiana. Abortion rights advocates also dropped some of their legal efforts in Indiana, Minnesota and Missouri.

Some clinics initially turned patients away soon after the high court ruling came down, but then reopened as judges ruled in their favour. That happened in Louisiana on Tuesday. In Houston, a Democratic city in a conservative state, a judge blocked enforcement for now of a statewide ban on virtually all abortions.

Abortions in Texas are still prohibited at about six weeks because of a law that took effect last year. But after Tuesday’s ruling, Texas clinics, which stopped providing services on Friday, received assurances they can resume operations for at least a few more weeks without risking prosecution.

At least one provider reopened to patients. In Tennessee, the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday allowed a six-week ban to take effect at the state’s request. An even more restrictive ban, prohibiting nearly all abortions, is set to take effect in a month. Both measures would make performing an abortion a felony and subject doctors to up to 15 years in prison.

The US Supreme Court’s decision opened the gates on a wave of litigation. One side is seeking to put statewide bans into effect swiftly, while the other is trying to stop or at least delay such measures.

Much of the court activity focused on “trigger laws” adopted in 13 states that were designed to take effect quickly upon last week’s ruling.

Additional lawsuits could also target old anti-abortion laws that were left on the books in some states and went unenforced under Roe. Newer abortion restrictions that were put on hold pending the Supreme Court ruling are also coming back into play.

In Wisconsin, the Democratic attorney general filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging an abortion ban that has been on the books for 173 years. With Roe struck down, abortion opponents said the old law is now in effect, and abortion providers in the state have stopped offering the procedure.

But Attorney General Josh Kaul argued that an abortion-friendly law passed in 1985 supersedes the older law. Abortion rights supporters gathered at the South Carolina statehouse Tuesday.

Merritt Watts, who moved to South Carolina from California last year, said if she still lived in California, she would have “completely different rights”.

“I used to think of red states as someone else’s problem, but it’s not,” the Charleston resident said. “They deserve what Californians have.”

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