Gov. Greg Abbott. Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Thursday that clinics in Texas can immediately offer medication abortions — a pregnancy termination method administered by pill — and can also provide the procedure to patients nearing the state's time limits for abortions.

Driving the news: The decision comes after federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Tuesday in favor of an executive order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

Reality check: Texas is expected to take this case back to the 5th Circuit, which two days ago vacated the district judge's first temporary restraining order blocking the state's COVID-19-related abortion ban.

The big picture: Abbott last month issued the order banning elective procedures in an effort to save medical supplies like masks and gowns for health workers treating the coronavirus. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton noted one day later that the order applied to abortions — unless the woman's life is at risk.

  • U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel had ruled against the order last week, arguing that the prohibitions amounted to a ban on a woman's right to an abortion.
  • But a federal appeals court in Texas ruled 2-1 in favor of an executive order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday.

Citing previous rulings, the two majority judges on the appeals court argued: "'[U]nder the pressure of great dangers,' constitutional rights may be reasonably restricted 'as the safety of the general public may demand.'"

  • "That settled rule allows states to restrict, for example, one's right to peacefully assemble, to publicly worship, to travel, and even to leave one's home. The right to abortion is no exception."

The dissenting judge countered: "In a time where panic and fear already consume our daily lives, the majority’s opinion inflicts further panic and fear on women in Texas by depriving them, without justification, of their constitutional rights."

Read the full ruling.

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Gulf Coast braces for Zeta after storm strengthens into hurricane

Hurricane Zeta's forecast path. Photo: National Hurricane Center

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) declared a state of emergency Monday as Zeta strengthened into a hurricane and threatened Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as it moved towards the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The state of play: Zeta was expected to make landfall on the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula Monday night, bringing with it a "dangerous storm surge" and "heavy rainfall" as it moved into the Gulf of Mexico, the National Hurricane Service said.

Updated 56 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: The swing states where the pandemic is raging — Pence no longer expected to attend Barrett confirmation vote after COVID exposure.
  2. Health: 13 states set single-day case records last week
  3. Business: Where stimulus is needed most.
  4. Education: The dangerous instability of school re-openings.
  5. World: Restrictions grow across Europe.
  6. Media: Fox News president and several hosts advised to quarantine.

Supreme Court rejects request to extend Wisconsin absentee ballot deadline

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court in a 5-3 decision Monday rejected an effort by Wisconsin Democrats and civil rights groups to extend the state's deadline for counting absentee ballots to six days after Election Day, as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3.

Why it matters: All ballots must now be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day in Wisconsin, a critical swing state in the presidential election.