Texas health officials have banned abortions as part of what they say is an effort to crack down on medical procedures that are “not immediately medically necessary” during the spread of the coronavirus in the state.
“No one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers," Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement Monday, referring to an order Gov. Greg Abbott issued a day earlier. "Those who violate the governor’s order will be met with the full force of the law.”
On Sunday, Abbott ordered all licensed health care professionals and facilities to "postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition of, or to preserve the life of, a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician.”
The order is aimed at making sure hospitals have enough personnel and resources to provide care to patients who become ill from COVID-19.
Abortion rights advocates, however, say the state is violating public health guidelines by blocking women from getting essential health care during a public health crisis.
"Instead of concentrating on responding to COVID 19 as best as they can, I think they are taking this as an opportunity to politicize abortion and to further ban abortion," Aimee Arrambide, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said.
In his statement, Paxton said he warned health care professionals and facilities, including abortion providers, that under the governor's order they "must postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary.”
After questions from reporters, Abbott’s office confirmed his order banned abortion procedures.
“Abortion is a procedure where time is of the essence and cannot be delayed without profound consequences,” Arrambide said in a statement.
“State leaders should ensure that Texans who need care can access it with the least amount of obstacles and medically unnecessary visits possible," she said.
The CEOs of three Planned Parenthoods in Texas released a joint statement saying they are reviewing Abbott's order to ensure compliance.
"As recognized by medical experts, abortion is a time-sensitive medical procedure," Ken Lambrecht of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, Melaney Linton of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, and Jeffrey Hons of Planned Parenthood South Texas wrote in their statement. "A delay of 30 days, or even less, can make abortion completely inaccessible."
This story has been updated.