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Federal judge orders Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to testify in an abortion lawsuit

The decision comes a week after the Republican reportedly fled his McKinney home to avoid being served with a subpoena.

AUSTIN — A federal judge has ordered Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to testify in a high-profile abortion case, a week after the Republican reportedly fled his McKinney home to avoid being served with a subpoena.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman wrote that Paxton needs to clarify how his office will enforce the state’s sweeping new abortion ban that carries possible penalties of prison time and six-figure fines.

In late August, Texas abortion funds filed a lawsuit seeking protections to resume paying for people’s flights, hotels and other expenses to travel out of state for the procedure. The eight funds paused the work after the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, which triggered a near total abortion ban in Texas and threats of criminal prosecution from Paxton and other elected leaders.

Paxton, who is up for a third term in November, has fought testifying in the case.

Last week, a process server attempted to deliver a subpoena at Paxton’s home, but wrote in an affidavit that the attorney general drove off quickly, refusing to accept the document. Paxton later said he avoided the server out of safety concerns.

Initially, Pitman quashed the subpoena. But on Tuesday, he reversed course, knocking down the assertion that Paxton had been notified only at “the eleventh hour” and saying that only the attorney general can clarify the office’s conflicting approaches to the law.

“In this case, Paxton has inserted himself into this dispute by repeatedly tweeting and giving interviews about the Trigger Ban,” Pitman wrote.

“It is challenging to square the idea that Paxton has time to give interviews threatening prosecutions but would be unduly burdened by explaining what he means to the very parties affected by his statements,” he said.

Pitman set a deadline of Oct. 11 for both sides to agree on the particulars of how Paxton will testify.

Paxton’s office did not respond to a request for comment. His legal team can challenge the decision at the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal.

While the suit centers on the funds’ activities, it could also help clarify looming legal questions about the state’s anti-abortion laws, such as whether Texans can be penalized for helping someone get the procedure in a state where it’s still allowed.

The abortion funds have argued that giving a pregnant person money or logistical support to get the procedure in another state is protected by the First Amendment.

Paxton’s office has the power to enforce the abortion ban by levying $100,000 civil fines, but he has also offered to help local prosecutors bring criminal charges.

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