Sept 3 (Reuters) – A Texas judge on Friday temporarily barred an anti-abortion group from suing Planned Parenthood to enforce a near-total ban on abortion in the state, handing the nation’s largest abortion provider a small victory in the bitter legal fight.
Travis County District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble granted Planned Parenthood a temporary restraining order against the anti-abortion group, Texas Right to Life, blocking the group and its allies from using an unusual mechanism of the Texas law that enables private citizens to sue anyone who provides or “aids or abets” an abortion after six weeks.
The law took effect early on Wednesday in Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court did not act on abortion rights groups’ request to block it. That suggests Supreme Court justices are closer than ever to overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision under which abortion rights have been protected.
Guerra Gamble said in her three-page written order that allowing the so-called private enforcement mechanism to go forward while Planned Parenthood took further legal action would cause “probable, irreparable and imminent injury” that could not be cured later.
The unusual enforcement mechanism gives the civil enforcement power to any party in or out of Texas who chooses to sue, while preventing government officials from enforcing the ban. The Travis County restraining order does not bar others from using the law against Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers in Texas. A hearing on a possible further injunction was set for Sept. 13.
Helene Krasnoff, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s vice president for public policy litigation and law, expressed relief “that the Travis County district court has acted quickly to grant this restraining order against Texas Right to Life and anyone working with them as deputized enforcers of this draconian law.”
“But make no mistake: this is not enough relief for Texas,” she said.
Elizabeth Graham, a Texas Right to Life vice president, said in a statement that her group “will never back down from protecting pregnant women and preborn children from abortion.”
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Donna Bryson and William Mallard)