In what has been an ongoing legal dispute over Texans' access to abortion during the new coronavirus pandemic, abortion providers on Saturday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take emergency action to restore “essential, time-sensitive medication abortion services.”
On Friday, a federal appeals court supported Republican Texas officials' near-total abortion ban by prohibiting the procedure under all but a few circumstances as COVID-19 spreads. That court said for now, the only patients who may terminate their pregnancies in Texas are those who would pass the legal gestational limit for abortions while a gubernatorial emergency order barring elective medical procedures remains in place.
“The past few weeks have been untenable for Texans in need of time-sensitive abortion procedures,” Alexis McGill Johnson, acting head of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “We’ve heard patients grow increasingly more desperate for care. Gov. [Greg] Abbott has blocked abortion access for mothers who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19, people quarantined with abusive partners, and patients with fatal fetal diagnoses."
Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton cited a March 22 executive order from Abbott, which barred medical procedures that are not "immediately medically necessary," and declared that all abortions were prohibited except those critical to the life or health of the patient. State officials said the prohibition was critical to preserve medical resources, like masks and gloves, as hospitals gear up for an onslaught of patients with COVID-19.