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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.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

NRA declares bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment."

The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.