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Judge shields Texas clinics from anti-abortion group’s suits

FILE - In this June 8, 2021, file photo, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas. Opponents of a sweeping Republican elections overhaul in Texas sued Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 going to court even before he had signed into law changes that would further tighten the state's already strict voting rules. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
FILE - In this June 8, 2021, file photo, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas. Opponents of a sweeping Republican elections overhaul in Texas sued Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 going to court even before he had signed into law changes that would further tighten the state's already strict voting rules. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

AUSTIN, Texas – A state judge has shielded, for now, Texas abortion clinics from lawsuits by an anti-abortion group under a new state abortion law in a narrow ruling handed down Friday.

The temporary restraining order Friday by state District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin in response to the Planned Parenthood request does not interfere with the provision. However, it shields clinics from whistleblower lawsuits by the nonprofit group Texas Right to Life, its legislative director and 100 unidentified individuals.

A hearing on a preliminary injunction request was set for Sept. 13.

The law, which took effect Wednesday, allows anyone anywhere to sue anyone connected to an abortion in which cardiac activity was detected in the embryo — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy before most women even realize they are pregnant.

In a petition filed late Thursday, Planned Parenthood said about 85% to 90% of people who obtain abortions in Texas are at least six weeks into pregnancy.

The 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,” said Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Helene Krasnoff in a statement.

However, the order will not deter Texas Right to Life’s efforts, said Elizabeth Graham, the group’s vice president. In a statement, the group said: “We expect an impartial court will dismiss Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit. Until then, we will continue our diligent efforts to ensure the abortion industry fully follows” the new law.