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Texas providers of abortion services are wary the law's status could change again

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What happens in Texas now that a judge has blocked its abortion law? A federal judge says it was flagrantly unconstitutional for Texas to ban abortions at around six weeks. He rejected the structure of the state legislation that was designed to avoid judicial scrutiny. But the outcome is far from clear because Texas says it will appeal.

Let's talk first to Ashley Lopez of member station KUT in Austin who's been talking with abortion providers. Hey there, Ashley.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What are you hearing?

LOPEZ: Well, you know, obviously abortion providers say this is a victory for Texas, that the court has intervened. But, you know, other states have passed similar bans, but they have been blocked by the courts from enforcing them. Texas, on the other hand, was allowed to enforce this law prohibiting abortions after about six weeks for more than a month, so obviously they're breathing a sigh of relief.

Amy Hagstrom Miller is the CEO of Whole Women's Health, which operates four clinics here in the state. She told reporters yesterday that within hours after the judge's order, they started scheduling abortions for people who had come into the clinic previously, but their pregnancies were too advanced at that point.

AMY HAGSTROM MILLER: We reached out to some of the patients that we had on a waiting list to come in to have abortions today, folks whose pregnancies did have cardiac activity. And we were able to see a few people as early as 8, 9 this morning.

LOPEZ: This is just one provider, though. There are many providers in Texas who do not see this as an open invitation to start expanding abortion services, though. In fact, Planned Parenthood affiliates said they're consulting with patients, but they just don't think they can actually start providing abortions past six weeks yet.

INSKEEP: What stops them?

LOPEZ: Well, there are a couple things at play here, right? For one, Texas has a 24-hour waiting period for abortion. So this isn't something that can get done quickly. And the assumption here is that abortion providers do not have a lot of time. It's expected that any moment now the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is one of the most conservative federal appeals courts in the country, is going to come in and lift this block by a lower court. And when that happens, abortion providers who did perform abortions past the six-week limit could be retroactively sued by private citizens, who under the new Texas law are allowed to sue in order to enforce this abortion ban.

INSKEEP: Right. So if this could go back into effect at any time and even reach back in time, what do abortion providers say they need?

LOPEZ: They say the only thing that will stop the law for enough time to actually restore abortion services in Texas past six weeks' gestation is for the U.S. Supreme Court to step in. The day the law went into effect, the court declined to stop the law because it was designed to be hard to fight in court. And the justices basically embraced that. But abortion providers have since filed an emergency request again to get the court to reconsider blocking the law. However, so far, the court has not done anything.

INSKEEP: Ashley, thanks so much.

LOPEZ: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's Ashley Lopez of KUT. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.