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Texans on Saturday once again found themselves living under a ban on most abortions following a ruling by a US federal appeals court which came just days after they were temporarily allowed.
The Friday decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily set aside a Wednesday ruling, and effectively reinstated the ban on most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Planned Parenthood said in a statement that appointments for patients seeking abortions after six weeks of pregnancy would be canceled until further notice.
"The Fifth Circuit has again disregarded half a century of precedent upholding the constitutional right to abortion," the family-planning healthcare provider said.
The whiplash and temporary nature of the rulings meant only a fraction of Texas' abortion clinics had begun conducting the procedure again beyond what was allowed under the ban.
Anti-abortion groups cheered the latest move.
"This is an answered prayer," Kimberlyn Schwartz, the media and communication director of Texas Right to Life, said in a statement.
"We expect the Biden administration to appeal to the Supreme Court of the US, and we are confident Texas will continue to defeat these attacks on our life-saving efforts."
On Wednesday, US District Judge Robert Pitman had granted the request from President Joe Biden's administration, issuing a preliminary injunction halting enforcement of the Texas law. Pitman said it violated the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which enshrined a woman's legal right to an abortion.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, appealed that decision, and the appeal was granted Friday.
"Great news tonight," Paxton tweeted shortly after the ruling. "I will fight federal overreach at every turn."
The US government has until Tuesday to respond, according to court filings. After that, the court can decide whether to allow the law to remain in place or to let a lower court temporarily block the ban again.
- 'Stop this madness' -
Pro-abortion organization NARAL slammed the decision Saturday, saying that "reproductive freedom was ripped away under the cover of darkness."
But Whole Woman's Health, one of the clinics that had resumed abortion services during the two-day injunction, celebrated a small victory.
"Every abortion we performed in Texas during the injunction was a (say it if you know it!) win," it tweeted Saturday.
Laws restricting abortion have been passed in other Republican-led states but were struck down by the courts because they violated Roe v. Wade.
"The Supreme Court needs to step in and stop this madness," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement following Friday's ruling.
"Patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear, and this cruel law is falling hardest on those who already face discriminatory obstacles in healthcare," she said.
The "Texas Heartbeat Act" allows members of the public to sue doctors who perform abortions, or anyone who helps facilitate them, once a fetal heartbeat is detected -- usually at around six weeks.
They can be rewarded with $10,000 for initiating cases that lead to prosecution, prompting charges that the law encourages people to act as vigilantes.
The law makes no exception for victims of rape or incest.
- Backlash -
The Texas law is part of a broader conservative drive to restrict abortions across the United States that has prompted a public backlash.
Tens of thousands of women took to the streets in cities across the country last weekend, asserting their reproductive rights.
Advocates of a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy have called on Congress to enshrine the right to abortion in federal law to protect it from any possible reversal by the Supreme Court.
A bill to that effect was adopted two weeks ago in the Democratic majority House of Representatives, but has no chance of passing the Senate where Republicans have enough votes to block it.
The Supreme Court is to hear a challenge on December 1 to a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.
If the court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, every state would be free to ban or allow abortions.
That would mean 36 million women in 26 states -- nearly half of American women of reproductive age -- would likely lose the legal right to an abortion, according to a Planned Parenthood report.