A US judge has temporarily blocked a controversial new law in Texas that effectively bans women from having an abortion in the state.
District Judge Robert Pitman granted a request by the Biden administration to prevent any enforcement of the law while its legality is being challenged.
The law was put forward and approved by Republican politicians in Texas.
The White House praised the ruling as an important step to restoring women’s constitutional rights.
Judge Pitman, of Austin, wrote in an 113-page opinion that, from the moment the law came into effect on 1 September, “women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution”.
“This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” he said.
Whole Woman’s Health, which runs a number of clinics in Texas, said it was making plans to resume abortions “as soon as possible”.
But the anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life, accused judges of “catering to the abortion industry” and called for a “fair hearing” at the next stage.
This is the first legal setback for Texas since the law was implemented, and state officials immediately appealed Judge Pitman’s ruling.
President Joe Biden’s administration took legal action after the conservative-majority Supreme Court declined to prevent Texas from enacting the law. The justice department filed an emergency motion to block enforcement of the law while it pursues legal action.
Mr Biden, a Democrat, has described the law as an “unprecedented assault” on women’s rights, but Texas Governor Greg Abbott has defended it, saying: “The most precious freedom is life itself.”