Abortion-rights organizations have accused Ken Paxton of trying to “chill their First Amendment right to talk about and fund abortion care.”
On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, must testify in an abortion lawsuit. This comes just one week after the GOP official fled to his home to avoid a subpoena requesting his attendance at the hearing.
Robert Pitman, U.S. District Judge, ordered Paxton to testify in a case that aims to stop state prosecutors from going after abortion providers who offer financial and other assistance to Texans seeking out abortion services.
Pitman’s decision was a reversal from his previous ruling which granted Paxton’s request for a quash order in the lawsuit brought by several Texas non-profit abortion funds and one OB/GYN in August against Paxton, local district attorneys, and Paxton.
This new ruling comes one week after a process server claimed that Paxton fled from his home in a truck driven by his wife, state senator Angela Paxton. The move was to avoid being served with a subpoena for him to appear at the hearing. Later, Paxton stated in a series of tweets that he was trying to avoid a “stranger lurking outside my house” out of concern for the safety of his family.
The judge’s order states that Paxton initially challenged the subpoena because he was a high-ranking official in government and could not be forced to testify at a hearing, particularly at the “eleventh hour.”
Pitman stated that he had to change his mind after the abortion-rights organizations filed a second motion last week. Pitman cited the numerous attempts they made to serve him, including emails left unanswered days before the hearing.
Pitman wrote Tuesday that Paxton’s motion was quashed by the Court because it had to do so in a short time frame and without the Plaintiffs’ responses. Pitman also noted that the Court relied upon Defendant as an accurate representation of Paxton’s expected testimony and when he had been served.
In court filings, Paxton was accused by abortion-rights groups of trying to “chill their First Amendment right to speak about and finance abortion care.” They claim that statements made in part by the state attorney general have limited their ability to facilitate outside-of-state abortions.
After arguing that Paxton’s efforts to dismiss the lawsuit caused him to contradict statements he made in press releases and interviews about his desire to seek civil penalties and help in criminal prosecutions of those who attempted or performed abortions, the groups called for Paxton to testify.
Pitman directed the parties to reach an agreement on details of Paxton’s testimony by October 11.
Paxton was a close ally to former President Donald Trump and has been indicted on securities fraud charges for seven years. He also faced an FBI investigation by former top aides alleging that he had abused his office. Both instances were denied by Paxton.