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Texas Judge Temporarily Blocks Pro-Life Group from Enforcing New Abortion Law

Demonstrators at a Planned Parenthood rally at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, April 5, 2017. (Ilana Panich-Linsman/Reuters)

A Texas judge on Friday granted a temporary restraining order against Texas Right to Life, preventing the pro-life group from suing Planned Parenthood under a state law that prohibits abortion after a heartbeat can be detected.

Travis County District Court judge Maya Guerra Gamble blocked the pro-life group and its associates from suing abortion providers and workers at Planned Parenthood clinics under the new law, S.B. 8, that took effect Wednesday.

“The Court finds that S.B. 8 creates a probable, irreparable, and imminent injury in the interim for which plaintiffs and their physicians, staff and patients throughout Texas have no adequate remedy at law if plaintiffs, their physicians, and staff are subjected to private enforcement lawsuits against them under S.B. 8,” Gamble wrote.

The temporary restraining order will expire in two weeks. A hearing, however, is set for September 13, during which the temporary order could be extended.

The judge’s ruling comes days after the Supreme Court issued a 5–4 decision rejecting a challenge to the law. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the Court’s three liberal justices in dissent. 

The measure allows private citizens to enforce a ban on abortion, as the law allows any individual to sue medical providers who perform an abortion. The law says plaintiffs in litigation cases resulting from the law’s implementation can earn up to $10,000 in damages.

Planned Parenthood celebrated the ruling against what it called a “draconian law.”

“This restraining 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,” Helene Krasnoff of Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement.

“But make no mistake: this is not enough relief for Texas,” she added. “Planned Parenthood will continue fighting for the millions of Texans affected by S.B. 8., doing everything we can under the law to restore Texans’ federal constitutional right to access abortion.”

Meanwhile, Texas Right to Life said in a statement it is “undaunted” by the new order.

“This lawsuit will not stop the work of Texas Right to Life,” the group’s vice president Elizabeth Graham said. “Estimates are that approximately 150 babies per day are being saved because of Texas Right to Life’s leadership on the Texas Heartbeat Act. Planned Parenthood can keep suing us, but Texas Right to Life will never back down from protecting pregnant women and preborn children from abortion.” 

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