In flurry of legal activity, decisions on abortion ban mixed

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A federal court on Tuesday allowed Tennessee to ban abortions as early as the sixth week of pregnancy, while in Texas – which already enforces a similar ban based on an embryo’s heart activity – a judge temporarily blocked entry into force of an even more stringent, decades-old law.

The moves were part of a flurry of actions in courthouses across the country after the U.S. Supreme Court last week overturned Roe v. Wade and ruled that terminating a pregnancy was not a constitutional right.

Statewide bans or other restrictions that have been left on the books for generations, bound 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 decision. About half of the states are expected to bar 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 have remained temporarily stalled in some states, including Louisiana. Rulings are pending in Florida and Indiana, while abortion rights advocates have dropped some of their legal efforts in Minnesota and Missouri.

Some clinics initially turned away patients after the High Court ruling, then reopened when judges ruled in their favour. It 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’re pregnant – under a law that took effect in September that makes no exceptions for rape or incest. . But a judge in Houston, a Democratic city in a conservative state, has so far blocked enforcement of an even tougher law that calls for a ban on virtually all statewide abortions. .

This law has been in effect for decades, but was reversed while Roe was in place. A separate so-called trigger law that would ban virtually all abortions in Texas is expected to go into effect in the coming months.

In Tennessee, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals action over a six-week ban preceded trigger legislation expected to further restrict abortion by mid-August, according to a legal interpretation by the attorney general of Tennessee. the state. These two measures would make performing an abortion a crime and subject doctors to a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling has opened the doors to a flurry of litigation. One side is seeking to quickly enact statewide bans, while the other is trying to stop or at least delay those actions.

Much of the court activity has focused on trigger laws passed in 13 states that were designed to go into effect soon after last week’s ruling. Additional lawsuits also target old anti-abortion laws that were left on the books and unenforced under Roe. New abortion restrictions that were suspended pending the Supreme Court’s decision are also coming back into effect.

Wisconsin’s Democratic attorney general filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging a 173-year-old ban. Abortion opponents have argued that it is now in effect and state abortion providers have stopped offering the procedure. But Attorney General Josh Kaul said a pro-abortion law passed in 1985 replaces the old law.

In Mississippi, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization filed a lawsuit Monday to stay open, after the Republican attorney general issued a notice saying the state’s trigger law would go into effect in 10 days. Republican Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said Tuesday she would turn to the courts to try to end most abortions in the state.

Federal cases have been dismissed in some states and may proceed to state courts, where state constitutional issues will be raised. The dismissal of a case in Utah led lawmakers to say a 2019 law banning abortion after 18 weeks gestation would now go into effect. But Planned Parenthood called the firing a “procedural move” and said it could still challenge the ban. The day before, a judge had blocked the application of a near total ban on abortion for at least two weeks.

In some states, laws that would prosecute abortion doctors or facilitators are a target. An Arkansas prosecutor sent a letter to a Planned Parenthood facility on Tuesday warning of penalties for the state’s abortion ban, even though the clinic had not provided them before the law took effect. law. In Massachusetts, Democrats unveiled a bill echoing an executive order signed by the Republican governor that seeks to protect abortion providers and people seeking abortions from actions taken by other states.

About 200 abortion-rights supporters gathered inside South Carolina’s Statehouse on Tuesday, a day after a federal court ruled that abortion restrictions could go into effect immediately there. A woman, who was seen on videos yelling at police and laying hands on an officer, has been arrested and charged with assault.

Merritt Watts, another protester, told the AP that she moved from California to South Carolina last year and if she still lived in California she would have “completely different rights.”

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

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Forliti reported from Minneapolis and Mulvihill from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Jamie Stengle contributed from Dallas. Other Associated Press writers across the United States also contributed.

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For full AP coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, go to https://apnews.com/hub/abortion.

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