Texas law banning second-trimester abortion procedure delayed by federal judge

(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.

“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)