A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Tuesday to allow Texas to block most abortion services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered health care facilities on March 22 to postpone all procedures deemed “not medically necessary” as the state geared up for an influx of patients suffering from COVID-19. One day later, Texas Attorney General (AG) Ken Paxton said that abortions should not be performed unless the mother’s life is in danger, as the order — set to expire April 21 — should be interpreted to cover abortion clinics.
As a result, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas said they had canceled hundreds of abortions.
Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights groups then sued to remove abortion from the list of procedures that should be delayed during the global pandemic.
In its Tuesday ruling, the court cited the governor’s interest in public health. “In the unprecedented circumstances now facing our society, even a minor delay in fully implementing the state’s emergency measures could have major ramifications,” the court wrote.
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, overturned the decision of a lower court.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin had ruled that the “Supreme Court has spoken clearly” on a woman’s right to abortion while blocking efforts by state Republican leaders to ban the procedure during the virus crisis.
But the circuit court said the lower court “ignored the framework governing emergency public health measures.” The court cited a Supreme Court precedent that had stated: “’Under the pressure of great dangers’ constitutional rights may be reasonably restricted ‘as the safety of the general public may demand.’”
“This is unconscionable. Patients are already being forced to put their lives in harm’s way during a pandemic, and now will be forced to continue doing so to get the health care they need,” Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
“Abortion is essential, it’s time-sensitive, and it cannot wait for a pandemic to pass. Instead of playing politics during a pandemic, Gov. Abbott should be focusing on the health care needs of his constituents,” Johnson added.
Author: Morgan Phillips