A Texas judge on Friday ordered a pro-life group and people affiliated with it not to bring lawsuits against a trio of Planned Parenthood affiliates.
The action relates to a new law that bans most abortions and went into effect on Sept. 1.
People under the law can sue doctors who perform illegal abortions and others who allegedly aid and abet the illegal procedures.
But Texas Right to Life, already barred for now from bringing suits against two lawyers and an abortion fund, were ordered by Travis County District Court Judge Maya Guerra Gamble not to sue Planned Parenthood South Texas Surgical Center, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services, Planned Parenthood Center for Choice, and Bhavik Kumar, who performs abortions at the center.
Gamble, a Democrat who began her term in 2019, said the new law, Texas Senate Bill 8, “creates a probable, irreparable, and imminent injury in the interim for which Plaintiffs and their physicians, staff, and patients throughout Texas have no adequate remedy at law” if they’re sued by private citizens under the measure.
Those restrained by the ruling, which is in effect until Sept. 17, are Texas Right to Life, its legislative director John Seago, and Jane/John Doe 1-100, described in Planned Parenthood’s suit as “individuals or entities who have expressed to other Defendants, whether by words or actions, their intention to enforce S.B. 8 against Plaintiffs.”
“This restraining order offers protection to the brave health care providers and staff at Planned Parenthood health centers throughout Texas, who have continued to offer care as best they can within the law while facing surveillance, harassment, and threats from vigilantes eager to stop them,” Helene Krasnoff, vice president for public policy litigation and law for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
Texas Right to Life, a pro-life group that advocated for the new law, said in a statement that the order does not block it because citizens not named as defendants can still sue abortion providers or others who violate the law.
“This lawsuit will not stop the work of Texas Right to Life. Estimates are that approximately 150 babies per day are being saved because of Texas Right to Life’s leadership on the Texas Heartbeat Act. Planned Parenthood can keep suing us, but Texas Right to Life will never back down from protecting pregnant women and preborn children from abortion,” Elizabeth Graham, vice president of the group, said.
The court will hold a hearing on the matter on Sept. 13.
A similar ruling was issued by a different judge against Texas Right to Life late last month, preventing it from suing attorneys Michelle Simpson Tuegel and Allison Van Stean and The Bridge Collective, a group that helps women get abortions.
But the law took effect on Sept. 1 after a district court, an appeals court, and the Supreme Court declined to intervene.
In a narrow 5–4 ruling, Supreme Court justices later allowed the law to stand, for now. The majority said they weren’t sure they could block the law because of its mechanisms. Chief Justice John Roberts, joined with the liberal bloc of the court.
The law does not allow state officials to enforce it. Instead, private citizens can bring lawsuits, and are awarded money if the suits are successful.
“The applicants now before us have raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law at issue,” the majority said. “But their application also presents complex and novel antecedent procedural questions on which they have not carried their burden” to get a preliminary injunction issued.