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TX Judge Temporarily Shields Abortion Clinics From Some Lawsuits Under Restrictive New Law

A state judge has temporarily shielded Texas abortion clinics from lawsuits by an anti-abortion group under the controversial new state abortion law. The temporary restraining order handed down on Friday by state District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin came in response to a request by Planned Parenthood that does not directly interfere with the new law.

However, it does shield clinics from whistleblower lawsuits by the nonprofit group Texas Right to Life, its legislative director, and 100 unidentified individuals.

The new legislation, dubbed the “heartbeat bill”, is the first of its kind in the US and has been likened to something out of the dystopian novel and TV series The Handmaid’s Tale by commentators. Taking effect on Wednesday, it allows anyone, anywhere, to sue anyone connected to an abortion in which cardiac activity was detected in the embryo. The US Supreme Court, with a 6-3 conservative majority, voted down an attempt to block the new law, which means that in Texas, any private citizen can now sue a provider who breaks this law. They would then be rewarded with $10,000 and additional legal fees if successful.

The new law also bans such a procedure once a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, which is usually around six weeks and may even be before some women realize they’re pregnant. The act makes an exception for medical emergencies that would affect the mother’s health, but not for rape or incest.

The petition filed by Planned Parenthood late on Thursday said that about 85 percent to 90 percent of people who obtain abortions in Texas are at least six weeks into pregnancy. The order “offers protection to the brave health care providers and staff at Planned Parenthood health centers throughout Texas, who have continued to offer care as best they can within the law while facing surveillance, harassment, and threats from vigilantes eager to stop them,” said Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Helene Krasnoff in a statement.

However, the action will not deter Texas Right to Life’s efforts, said Elizabeth Graham, the group’s vice president. In a statement, the group said: “We expect an impartial court will dismiss Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit. Until then, we will continue our diligent efforts to ensure the abortion industry fully follows” the new law.

A hearing on a preliminary injunction request was set for September 13th.

 

 



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