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After state court victories, clinics have resumed abortions in some states with bans

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Abortion remains illegal in many states after the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. But some abortion providers have opened their doors again today after winning at least temporary victories in state courts. One of those states is Louisiana. A judge there issued a restraining order yesterday blocking that state's trigger bans. NPR's Sarah McCammon is there, and she joins us now from outside Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, La. Hey, Sarah.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi, Juana.

SUMMERS: Sarah, Louisiana is just one of the many states in the U.S. with abortion bans on the books. Tell us about the legal fights that are playing out across this country.

MCCAMMON: Right. So in response to many states activating these bans one way or another, lawyers with groups like the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights have been challenging abortion bans in several states on different grounds. In many cases, they've been appealing to state constitutions, which they argue offer protections for abortion rights, even if the U.S. Constitution, according to the Supreme Court, may not. In Louisiana, they argue that it was unclear which of the multiple abortion bans were in place and also that those themselves are confusing.

SUMMERS: And it seems like there's been some success already. What does that mean for these clinics?

MCCAMMON: Right. So far, abortions have resumed, at least for now, in Utah, at some clinics, I'm told, in Texas and here in Shreveport, La. Staff members have spent the past day or so calling patients back for procedures, which they resumed today.

KATHALEEN PITTMAN: Hope Medical. This is Kathaleen. How may I help you?

MCCAMMON: At Hope Medical Group for Women, things were almost back to normal this morning, at least a new normal. After shutting down on Friday in response to the Supreme Court's ruling, the clinic won a restraining order from a state judge on Monday and immediately began calling patients back.

J: Thank goodness. I was just really happy to hear that I could still come.

MCCAMMON: J., a patient who asked us to call her only by her first initial because she's worried about stigma in her small Texas town, was relieved when she got word she could still come today. At 27, she's a mom to three young boys already. She says she has a history of difficult pregnancies, which have landed her in the hospital again and again.

J: I want to walk away from this feeling better because right now I feel extremely sick, and I'm unable to function and take care of my kids that I do have.

MCCAMMON: J. had been watching the Supreme Court closely and had scheduled a backup appointment at a clinic in New Mexico in case abortion became illegal here in Louisiana.

J: I was really scared. I thought I was going to have to travel 12 hours to Albuquerque because of Roe v. Wade being overturned. I had a panic attack that day.

MCCAMMON: But along with about three dozen other patients, she was able to get in for her procedure today.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: And then you also have the clock. Make sure your phone is on silent for the time. And no pictures.

MCCAMMON: Staff members have been busy helping patients get checked in and making calls to schedule more procedures through next week. The judge has given them at least until July 8, when a hearing is scheduled. Even so, clinic workers are being incredibly careful. Outside in the parking lot, Jamie Cantrell, a volunteer escort, says she tells patients to back into the parking spaces so their license plates aren't available.

JAMIE CANTRELL: Sometimes, folks will come out with cameras and take photographs.

MCCAMMON: Louisiana's Republican attorney general has said he will fight to defend the state's abortion bans. Sarah Zagorski, communications director with Louisiana Right to Life, says she's confident abortion will soon be banned here.

SARAH ZAGORSKI: It's going to get dismissed, and our Louisiana law will stand. There's nothing vague about our 2022 reaffirmation of Human Life Protection Act. In our opinion, they're just really pulling at straws to try to keep their doors open.

MCCAMMON: Clinic administrator Kathaleen Pittman acknowledges she may have to close her doors eventually. But in the nearly three decades she's worked here, she's learned to stay focused on what's in front of her now.

PITTMAN: It's just a way of life. I can't imagine coming to work in the morning and not having something hanging over my head. So we're concentrating on our patients right now, doing the best we can for them. And we'll deal with whatever we need to deal with as it comes.

SUMMERS: So, Sarah, what is the next step for these legal battles over abortion bans?

MCCAMMON: Well, that's going to vary somewhat from state to state. Joanna Wright is an attorney representing the Hope Medical Group here in Shreveport. Here's what she said.

JOANNA WRIGHT: Each state has a different statutory schema and a different trigger ban. But it is absolutely a strategy right now to be evaluating and challenging each of these trigger laws nationwide.

MCCAMMON: And Wright argues that all of Louisiana's anti-abortion laws are unclear, and she says they're therefore out of step with the state constitution. She expects similar legal fights in other states.

SUMMERS: NPR's Sarah McCammon in Shreveport, La. Thanks, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF GAVIN LUKE'S "NIGHT WALK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.