In a press release from the Texas Attorney Generals’ Office, Texas AG Ken Paxton praised the 5th Circuit Court for upholding the ban on elective medical procedures, including abortions, “I thank the court for their immediate and careful attention to the health and safety needs of Texans suffering from the spread of COVID-19. The temporary stay ordered this afternoon justly prioritizes supplies and personal protective equipment for the medical professionals in need. The Governor’s Order temporarily halting unnecessary medical procedures, including abortion, applies to all health care facilities and professionals equally as Texans come together to combat this medical crisis.”
Governor Abbott’s order banning unnecessary medical procedures and abortions was blocked by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin who commented in her ruling, “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 current COVID-19 pandemic.
Judge Yeakel’s ruling came down on Monday, March 30th. Less than 24 hours later, Judge Yeakel was overruled by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, March 31st. Yeakel’s ruling came from a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals gave the plaintiffs until the following day, April 1st, to file a response to the court’s decision.
There was 1 dissenting vote on the ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision. Judge James Dennis wrote in his dissent, “Irreparable harm would flow” from allowing Texas’ order to prohibit abortions. Judge Dennis felt that Judge Yeakel’s ruling should stand. Dennis’ also wrote, “I write separately to make clear that, per the Executive order, 'any procedure that, if performed in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, would not deplete the hospital capacity or the personal protective equipment needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster’ is exempt,” Dennis suggested some abortion procedures would fall under this exemption and therefore should not be banned, even if Texas’s order were allowed to go into effect.
Planned Parenthood’s acting president, Alexis McGill was unhappy with the ruling “While people everywhere are trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, politicians like Gov. Abbott continue this perverse obsession with banning abortion.” She added, "We will not cower before politicians who insist on exploiting a global pandemic to score political points.” Nancy Northup is the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights and vowed to “continue this legal battle against Texas’ abuse of emergency powers.”
The Governor’s Executive Order applies to all health care facilities and professionals in Texas to ensure that hospitals and medical personnel have access to as much personal protective equipment and hospital beds as possible during the national health crisis.
For information on the spread or treatment of Coronavirus (COVID-19), please visit the Texas Department of State Health Services website.