AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge has ordered that Texas abortion clinics may continue to perform abortions in some cases, either those using medication or those involving patients for whom delays would pose an essential ban.

The ruling came in a 16-page opinion filed Thursday by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin and appears to fly in the face of an appeals court ruling that upheld a ban imposed by Gov. Greg Abbott last month.

In an executive order, Abbott last month had banned all but essential medical procedures during the emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and abortions were among the procedures banned. Yeakel had put the total ban on hold, but enforcement of the order was upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Planned Parenthood and other clinics then asked Yeakel to allow abortions in some cases, including medication abortions and abortions in which a delay would push a pregnancy past the state’s legal cutoff of 22 weeks, making the procedure illegal.

Such a delay would constitute “an absolute ban on abortion,” which the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed unconstitutional, Yeakel concluded in his opinion.

Abbott’s original March 22 order was to expire April 21 but can be extended.


Similar legal fights are being waged in Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma and Iowa.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton lashed out against Yeakel’s latest order, saying it “defies” the appeals court ruling and “demonstrates a lack of respect for the rule of law.” He vowed, “We will once again ask the Fifth Circuit to uphold Governor Abbott’s decision to stop all elective medical procedures during the COVID-19 crisis.”

COVID-19 is the illness caused by the new coronavirus. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.