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Abortion providers in some states win reprieves in state courts

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Abortion providers in at least a couple of states have been told they can resume procedures after winning reprieves in state court. So far, judges in Utah and Louisiana are allowing abortions to continue. In several other states - including Texas, Kentucky and Mississippi - abortion rights advocates are challenging trigger bans that are taking effect after last week's Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. NPR's Sarah McCammon takes us to one clinic in Shreveport, La., where staff members have been telling patients they can come back today.

(CROSSTALK)

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: At Hope Medical Group for Women, it's been a chaotic few days.

KATHALEEN PITTMAN: We've gone from nightmare to, you know, elation. But, you know, it's just been all over the place.

MCCAMMON: Kathaleen Pittman is the administrator at the clinic in Shreveport, where she's worked for 30 years. On Friday, when the U.S. Supreme Court released the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision, upending decades of protections for abortion rights, she had patients in the waiting room.

PITTMAN: So we had - explaining to staff, explaining to patients. I don't know who cried harder, the staff or the patients. And, you know, there was a lot of anger.

MCCAMMON: But then Monday morning, a judge in New Orleans granted a temporary restraining order, siding with Lawyers for Hope Medical Group who argued the state's multiple abortion bans are confusing and that it was unclear which restrictions were actually in effect. The judge scheduled a hearing for next month. In the meantime, the clinic can resume abortions. And Pittman's staff is trying to get back in touch with patients they turned away on Friday.

PITTMAN: We're contacting them and trying to put them back on the schedule as quickly as we can.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)

STEFFI CHAFFEE: Hope Medical Group. This is Steffi. May I help you?

MCCAMMON: Meanwhile, news has spread that the clinic is starting procedures again. But it's already fully booked. Steffi Chaffee has to tell anyone calling for the first time they're probably out of luck.

CHAFFEE: Yeah, honey. We got a temporary restraining order, so we're back to being able to schedule. What, did you have an appointment with us or what? You waiting for your first visit? OK, well, we're not scheduling for first visits right now, honey. We're already booked up. So - well, I understand, honey, the whole thing isn't fair.

MCCAMMON: Kathaleen Pittman says some patients who had appointments are now too far along in their pregnancies to be seen or too far away already.

PITTMAN: Some of them won't be able to make it back, truth be told. We know this.

MCCAMMON: Not to mention the almost 500 people on the waiting list. The clinic has been flooded with calls from Texas since that state's law banning most abortions after six weeks took effect in September.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Louisiana's so-called trigger laws are temporarily blocked. This after a lawsuit called them into question.

MCCAMMON: On a small TV in the waiting room, an image of the clinic's front door flashes on the screen as Pittman and Chaffee watched the local news.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Hope Medical Group says it's trying to serve as many patients as possible.

CHAFFEE: Oh, it's the opening.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Coming up tonight at 5, we'll take a look at what the state's attorney general has to say.

CHAFFEE: Oh, I'd love to hear what Jeff Landry has to say.

MCCAMMON: So far, Landry, Louisiana's Republican attorney general, has vowed to defend his state's abortion restrictions. Pittman says she understands that her victory in Louisiana state court may well be only temporary.

PITTMAN: To someone on the outside looking in, they may see it as a fruitless battle. And to that, I would refer you to the patients that are seen in the meantime because it means all the world to them.

MCCAMMON: Meanwhile, abortion rights advocates challenging trigger bans in a growing number of states are hoping for a similar reprieve, however brief, for patients across the country.

Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Shreveport, La. 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.