Though the court's decision Thursday offers a temporary respite to reproductive rights groups, it's the latest in a series of legislative and legal challenges to abortion access in the state.
"This decision is a victory for Texas women, and especially for people of color, those with low-incomes, and rural Texans for whom accessing care is even more hard", Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said in a statement. The abortion conglomerate argued that banning the dismemberment procedure places an "undue burden" on women seeking second trimester abortions.
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In Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court ruled that restrictions on legal abortion can not unduly burden a woman without providing a legitimate medical benefit.
An exam room at ChoiceWorks, formerly Whole Woman's Health Clinic, on June 27, 2016, the day the U.S. Supreme Court struck down portions of HB 2 restricting women's access to abortions in Texas.
SB 8 refers to D&E procedures with the non-medical term "dismemberment abortion". The only alternatives to D&E are inducing labor to make a woman deliver the fetus or go under the knife for a procedure similar to a hysterectomy - both procedures that abortion doctors say are incredibly risky and expensive. This procedure can last hours or days, and is more painful and can be more medically unsafe for the patient. They argue that dilation and evacuation is the safest procedure and is performed before the fetus is viable.
An injection of potassium chloride directly into the fetal heart, for example, would cause demise, but would also be fatal to the woman if administered incorrectly.
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The judge wrote that Planned Parenthood and the other plaintiffs satisfied a requirement for the temporary injunction showing that "threatened injury to the Plaintiffs outweighs any damage that the temporary restraining order might cause the State".
He added that "it is in the public interest to preserve the status quo and give the parties ample opportunity to develop the record regarding the constitutional questions raised without subjecting plaintiffs or the public to any of the act's potential harms".
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was disappointed by the ruling but remained committed to defending the law in court.
"Dismemberment abortions are gruesome and inhumane, which makes it troubling that a district court would block Texas' lawful authority to protect the life of unborn children from such a barbaric practice", said Marc Rylander, director of communications for Paxton.
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Under Yeakel's ruling, the law was stopped from going into effect until a hearing set for September 14 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin.