Texas Allowed to Enforce Order Postponing ‘Unnec­es­sary’ Abortions During Pandemic, Court Rules

March 31, 2020 Updated: March 31, 2020

Texas is again allowed to enforce its governor’s order to temporarily postpone surgeries and medical procedures, including elective abortions, that are not immediately necessary or to preserve the life of a patient during the CCP virus pandemic, a federal appeals court ruled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued a temporary stay on a lower court’s decision to allow abortion providers to continue with the procedure after they were halted in Texas due to the global pandemic.

The abortion providers filed a lawsuit against a number of Texas officials after governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order (pdf) on March 22 ordering all licensed health care professionals and licensed health care facilities to postpone any unnecessary medical procedures in an attempt to preserve much-needed medical supplies for health care professionals and hospital beds during the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus.

A failure to comply with the order is punishable by up to 180 days in jail, a fine up to $1,000, or both, the order stipulated.

The executive order was expected to end on April 21.

On Monday, the lower court granted abortion providers a temporary restraining order on the part of the executive order that affects abortions (pdf).

Following the restraining order, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed to the 5th circuit, saying that he was determined to “fight tirelessly against” what he described as a “politically-driven lawsuit to protect the health of Texans suffering from this COVID-19 crisis.”

On Tuesday, the three-judge panel temporarily lifted the restraining order, allowing the executive order to be enforced in full. One of the judges, Judge James Dennis, dissented.

“A federal judge has already concluded that irreparable harm would flow from allowing the Executive Order to prohibit abortions during this critical time. I would deny the stay,” Dennis, a Clinton appointee, wrote in his dissent.

Paxton welcomed the decision in a statement, saying that his office will continue to ensure “supplies and personal protective gear reach the hardworking medical professionals who need it the most during this health crisis.”

“Abortion providers who refuse to follow state law are demonstrating a clear disregard for Texans suffering from this medical crisis. For years, abortion has been touted as a ‘choice’ by the same groups now attempting to claim that it is an essential procedure,” Paxton said in the statement.

Planned Parenthood, who is challenging the state, said in a statement on Twitter that they will continue fighting.

“We won’t stop fighting for our patients. This is not over,” the organization said.

The abortion providers have until 8 a.m. Wednesday to file a response to Texas’s emergency motion to block the ruling.

Texas is not the only state that is facing lawsuits over its restriction to abortion during the CCP virus outbreak. Federal judges have also lifted state orders suspending abortion procedures during the pandemic in Ohio and Alabama.

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