Federal judge blocks restrictive Texas abortion law

Aug 31 (Reuters) - A Texas law restricting a second-trimester abortion technique, initially due to take effect on Friday, was put on hold for two weeks pending a court hearing on a challenge to the legislation, a federal judge in Austin, Texas, ruled.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on Thursday granted a temporary restraining order against the ban on a procedure known as dilation and evacuation requested by Planned Parenthood and other organizations challenging the law.

Abortion opponents call the procedure "fetal dismemberment" and it would be barred under the law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

RELATED: Texas abortion protests, closed clinics

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Texas abortion protests, closed clinics
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Texas abortion protests, closed clinics
AUSTIN, TX - JULY 01: Supporters of Texas women's right to reproductive decisions rally at the Texas State capitol on July 1, 2013 in Austin, Texas. This is first day of a second legislative special session called by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to pass an restrictive abortion law through the Texas legislature. The first attempt was defeated after opponents of the law were able to stall the vote until after first special session had ended. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - JULY 01: Supporters of Texas women's right to reproductive decisions rally at the Texas State capitol on July 1, 2013 in Austin, Texas. This is first day of a second legislative special session called by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to pass an restrictive abortion law through the Texas legislature. The first attempt was defeated after opponents of the law were able to stall the vote until after first special session had ended. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - JULY 01: A pro-life supporter in the Texas State capitol on July 1, 2013 in Austin, Texas. This is first day of a second legislative special session called by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to pass an restrictive abortion law through the Texas legislature. The first attempt was defeated after opponents of the law were able to stall the vote until after first special session had ended. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - JULY 01: Texas Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) leads a rally in support of Texas women's right to reproductive decisions at the Texas state capitol on July 1, 2013 in Austin, Texas. This is first day of a second legislative special session called by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to pass an restrictive abortion law through the Texas legislature. The first attempt was defeated after opponents of the law were able to stall the vote until after first special session had ended. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - JUNE 25: Reproductive rights advocates fill the Texas capitol celebrating the defeat of the controversial anti-abortion bill SB5, which was up for a vote on the last day of the legislative special session June 25, 2013 in Austin, Texas. A combination of State Sen. Wendy Davis' (D-Ft. Worth) 13-hour filibuster and protests by reproductive rights advocates helped to ultimately defeat the controversial abortion legislation at midnight. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
Protesters rally before the start of a special session of the Legislature in Austin, Texas July 1, 2013. When the Texas Legislature convenes on Monday for a second special session, the Republican majority will seek to do what it couldn't pull off in the first, when Democrat Wendy Davis stalled the measure for hours: Pass sweeping abortion restrictions. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY HEALTH CIVIL UNREST)
Protesters line the floors of the rotunda at the State Capitol building during a protest before the start of a special session of the Legislature in Austin, Texas July 1, 2013. When the Texas Legislature convenes on Monday for a second special session, the Republican majority will seek to do what it couldn't pull off in the first, when Democrat Wendy Davis stalled the measure for hours: Pass sweeping abortion restrictions. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY HEALTH CIVIL UNREST)
Lisa Hernandez of Corpus Christi, Texas holds a sign at a protest before the start of a special session of the Legislature in Austin, Texas July 1, 2013. When the Texas Legislature convenes on Monday for a second special session, the Republican majority will seek to do what it couldn't pull off in the first, when Democrat Wendy Davis stalled the measure for hours: Pass sweeping abortion restrictions. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY HEALTH CIVIL UNREST)
Texas senator Wendy Davis (C) joins other legislature participants at a protest before the start of a special session of the Legislature in Austin, Texas July 1, 2013. When the Texas Legislature convenes on Monday for a second special session, the Republican majority will seek to do what it couldn't pull off in the first, when Davis stalled the measure for hours: Pass sweeping abortion restrictions. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY HEALTH TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
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“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,” a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.

“The Texas Attorney General will continue to defend our state’s legal right to protect the basic human rights and dignity of the unborn,” the statement added.

Women's health groups say that Texas abortion law is already so restrictive that it forces more women to seek the procedure during the second trimester instead of earlier. They argue that dilation and evacuation is the safest procedure and is performed before the fetus is viable.

“We’re grateful that today’s decision will protect women’s access to one of the safest and most common methods of abortion in the second trimester,” Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement.

“This dangerous law is yet another attempt by politicians to ban abortion step by step and method by method, regardless of who it hurts," the statement added.

Under Yeakel's ruling, the law was stopped from going into effect until a hearing set for Sept. 14 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Calif.; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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