Abortion Advocates Skip Supreme Court to Undo Pandemic-Inspired Texas Ban

April 9, 2020 Updated: April 9, 2020

Abortion advocates have, at least for now, decided not to challenge in the Supreme Court a temporary emergency ban on abortions in Texas enacted while the state combats the CCP virus.

The move saves the high court from taking on a case fraught with controversy during a presidential election year.

On March 4, before preventive lockdowns had been ordered across the United States, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo. The litigation challenges a Louisiana law that requires abortionists to have hospital admitting privileges close to where the procedure takes place. The high court has yet to render a decision.

The move comes after a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on April 7 lifted U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel’s temporary injunction blocking the Texas ban on most abortions during the current public health crisis.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, unveiled the emergency measure March 22 that forbids elective medical procedures, in an effort to conserve hospital space and personal protective equipment for care for patients who have COVID-19.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, also a Republican, said the next day that the ban covers abortions, except where the woman’s life or health is at risk. He warned that abortionists who continued operating in defiance of the ban would face criminal charges.

The Texas ban is considered one of the strictest of the temporary state-level abortion curbs. Violators could be fined $1,000 or jailed for 180 days.

Molly Duane, a staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, an organization that represents several of the affected abortion providers in the lawsuit, declined to answer questions during a telephone call and instead referred The Epoch Times to Kelly Krause, its U.S. press officer. Krause didn’t immediately respond to inquiries.

Several media outlets cited a statement by Duane.

“We believe this is the fastest way to resume full access to abortion in Texas, which is our number one priority,” she reportedly said. “The Fifth Circuit suggested there are outstanding factual questions about the impact of this order. During the last two weeks, abortion has been largely unavailable in Texas, and we have seen that the impact on patients is devastating.”

Attorney Julie Murray of Planned Parenthood Federation of America said she had emailed The Epoch Times’ request to her colleagues in communications, who didn’t respond by press time.

Instead of facing an uncertain outcome at the Supreme Court, the plaintiff abortion providers are moving forward with a motion to replace Yeakel’s temporary restraining order that was invalidated by the Fifth Circuit. The case, now before the Austin division of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, is known as Planned Parenthood Center for Choice v. Abbott.

In a motion filed with the district court April 8, the plaintiffs argue that a temporary injunction blocking Abbott’s executive order should be granted because “the burdens imposed by the Executive Order in those circumstances far outweigh any benefits of barring these patients from obtaining an abortion during the month-long Executive Order, and, because of clinic crowding, potentially for weeks thereafter even if the Executive Order itself is not extended.”

This injunctive relief “is urgently needed to prevent further irreparable harm to Plaintiffs’ patients’ health and rights.” The providers have already “been forced to turn away hundreds of patients in need of abortion care for more than two weeks already, resulting in severe and ongoing harm to patients.”

Texas opposes the motion for a new temporary restraining order.