Texas Judge Lora Livingston ruled that the city of Austin can keep its citywide mask mandate, after a hearing on Friday morning.
Following a three-hour Zoom hearing, Livingston blocked a March 12 request by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to overrule the city health authority's masking restrictions.
The mandate, reinstated by Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott, enforces COVID restrictions such as masking and social distancing effective Wednesday, March 10. While Gov. Abbott's order that reopened Texas at 100% doesn't let local jurisdictions overrule his order, it does grant counties the authority to reverse the reopening if COVID hospitalizations increase.
Paxton went through with a lawsuit against the city earlier this month after threatening to do.
Austin currently has a COVID death rate lower than any other metro in Texas. While the city experiences 73 deaths per 100,000, Texas has about 160 per 100,000. Escott credits mask use with saving at least 1,100 Austinites.
The city was previously in a similar position when the county tried to enforce a curfew on New Year's Eve weekend. The Texas Supreme Court went in the state's favor.
Austin Nicholson was ahead of the curve when he got his vasectomy in September 2021, saving himself a long line as Austin-area doctors say the demand for sterilization has seen a “significant” spike since Roe v. Wade was overturned on Friday.
Nicholson, 25, said he would prefer to adopt children, had felt the Supreme Court decision coming for a while, and, wary of the consequences, he decided to pull the trigger and make an appointment.
“A big part of it was the political climate. We could both potentially face consequences and she would definitely face more consequences, which I also personally would not want,” Nicholson said. “I didn't want to be stuck in Texas and have a potential abortion on the mind when it's illegal.”
According to vasectomy specialist Dr. Luke Machen of Austin Fertility and Reproductive Medicine, the clinic received over 150 vasectomy appointment requests combined on Friday and Monday following the ruling. Typically, the clinic performs 45-50 vasectomies per month.
The Austin Urology Institute reported that they received about 70 calls in the first hour after the ruling was released. OBYN at Women’s Health Domain reported receiving over 100 requests from women interested in getting their tubes tied.
“I would say a significant number of patients who scheduled recently have mentioned the Supreme Court case,” Machen said. “A lot of guys have said they were thinking about having a vasectomy over the last year or so, and the ruling was the final push to get it done.”
The average patient at Austin Fertility who receives a vasectomy is about 37, though Machen said he has started to see an increased number of patients with zero children choosing to get a vasectomy. While they put together a study, Machen expects demand for the procedure to plateau but stay higher than before the ruling.
Machen said vasectomy is the most effective form of permanent birth control, requires only about a week of recovery time, is reversible with success rates of up to 95% and has no effects on sexual function or testosterone.
Nicholson said the procedure was less than $700, he was never in any pain, had very little recovery time and has never regretted the decision—in fact, he has happily recommended the procedure to friends.
“It helps me feel better knowing that I won't put a woman in that situation where she'd have to be faced with a potentially life-altering decision, or consequence even,” Nicholson said. “I actually have had three of my friends ask me questions about it and tell me that they were considering it.”
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