Federal court sides with Abbott, Paxton in banning abortions during pandemic

by | Apr 8, 2020 | Policy, Reproductive Health

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court sided with Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in banning abortions during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

The three-judge panel voted 2-1 to overturn a lower court’s decision to block the ban.

Last month, Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting nonessential medical procedures to free up hospital beds and medical equipment. Shortly after, Paxton’s office clarified that abortions were considered medically unnecessary surgeries under Abbott’s new order— a move that quickly sparked lawsuits from Planned Parenthood.

A federal judge last week sided with abortion providers and temporarily blocked the ban, arguing that the Supreme Court has spoken clearly on the issue and that there can be no outright ban on a woman’s right to an abortion.

The ruling by federal judges this week invalidated that temporary ban. One of the judges, appointed by President Trump, argued that individual rights could be “reasonably restricted” during a public health crisis.

The move has already caused hundreds of abortions in the state to be canceled. A research brief by the University of Texas found that almost three-fourths of counties in the state— including the state’s largest, Harris County— will now see residents drive more than 200 miles to neighboring states to reach the nearest abortion provider.

“Gov. Abbott and indicted-Attorney General Ken Paxton are actively ignoring the advice of many medical professionals and playing politics during a global pandemic,” Tara Pohlmeyer, a spokesperson for Progress Texas said in a statement. “Instead of prioritizing measures to protect Texans’ public health and safety, they are attacking some of our most vulnerable.”

The Intercept reported on Wednesday that one Texas woman had to drive 1,600 miles for a round trip to Colorado to receive care. She said she spotted two other Texas license plates in the same facility. 

“In the past 24 hours, state leaders like Abbott and Paxton have stated that you can vote in person during a pandemic but women can’t get the quality healthcare they need,” Nisha Randle, a spokesperson for Texas Democrats told the Signal. “For the first time since Roe V Wade, Abortion rights are now illegal in the state of Texas.” 

Photo: Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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