by WorldTribune Staff, April 9, 2020
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to suspend most abortions in the state during the coronavirus crisis was upheld by a federal appeals court on Tuesday.
In a 2-1 ruling, a panel on the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit overturned U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel’s order which had prevented the state from labeling abortions as nonessential medical procedures that must be suspended.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said his state’s ban “ensures that hospital beds remain available for coronavirus patients and personal protective equipment reaches the hardworking medical professionals who need it the most during this crisis.” Paxton said abortions should not be performed unless the mother’s life was in danger.
Texas already bans most abortions later than 20 weeks after fertilization. In late March, Abbott instituted the coronavirus-focused order, which instructed health officials to refrain from procedures that are “not medically necessary.” The order expires on April 21, but it could be extended.
The appeals court’s majority said in times of great emergency states have latitude to restrict constitutional rights to protect public safety, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“That settled rule allows the state to restrict, for example, one’s right to peaceably assemble, to publicly worship, to travel, and even to leave one’s home. The right to abortion is no exception,” wrote Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan, a Trump appointee.
Judge James Dennis, a Clinton appointee, wrote in his dissent the court exposed women “to the risks of continuing an unwanted pregnancy, as well as the risks of traveling to other states in search of time-sensitive medical care.”
Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights advocates, who challenged Texas officials in late March over the restrictions, now have the option to ask the appeals court to reconsider or ask the Supreme Court to take up the case.
“We’ll use every tool at our disposal to fight this harmful order and protect our patients’ healthcare,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
West Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, Alabama and Oklahoma have also either considered or have put abortions on hold during the coronavirus crisis.