Federal Court Blocks Gov. Abbott’s COVID-19 Order Against Abortion Care AGAIN

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Abortion providers can resume medication abortions and abortion procedures for patients who would otherwise be unable to access abortion due to gestational age cut-offs
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Today, a federal district court granted a second temporary restraining order against Gov. Abbott’s COVID-19 order, which the State threatened to enforce as a ban on time-sensitive abortion services. Under this latest order, abortion providers — represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the Lawyering Project — may provide medication abortion as well as abortion procedures for patients who would be unable to access abortion due to their gestational age on April 22 (the day after Gov. Abbott’s executive order is set to expire). 

This comes two days after the 5th Circuit used a rare procedural mechanism to reverse the first emergency restraining order granted to the Texas abortion providers — Planned Parenthood Center for Choice, Planned Parenthood Greater Texas Surgical Health Services, Planned Parenthood South Texas Surgical Center, Whole Woman’s Health, Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center, and Austin Women’s Health Center. As a result of the governor’s order and the 5th Circuit’s rulings, the providers have been forced to turn hundreds of patients away while the legal battle continues. 

After just a few weeks, the enforcement of Abbott’s order has already had dramatic effects on patients’ lives, with some being forced to travel hundreds of miles in a pandemic to access basic and essential health care.

Statement from Nancy Northup, president & CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“We are relieved that the district court has again stepped in to stop Governor Abbott from blocking women from accessing time-sensitive, essential abortion care. It’s time for Texas to stop its crusade to end abortion, which will inflict irreparable harm on women seeking care at this difficult time.”

Statement of Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“This is a temporary sigh of relief for at least some Texas patients. We know that abortion is essential because it is time-sensitive care that cannot wait. Gov. Abbott should stop trying to force Texans into unconscionable choices: to travel long distances and increase their risk of exposure to the new coronavirus or carry a forced pregnancy. We won’t stand for it. Planned Parenthood will continue to fight these cruel attacks on our patients. We know your health cannot wait and we are here with you.”

Statement Rupali Sharma, Senior Counsel and Director at the Lawyering Project:

"Today's ruling ensures some Texans will be able to get the care they need, despite the all-out war politicians in the state have declared on abortion access. The Lawyering Project will continue to fight alongside people who need to end their pregnancies safely and with the dignity they deserve."  

Already, courts in Alabama, Ohio and Oklahoma are allowing abortion providers, just like all other doctors, to decide when to provide essential abortion care while conserving needed resources during this pandemic. Texas should be no different. In fact, forcing people to carry their pregnancies to term against their will only creates a heavier burden on a hospital system that’s already stretched thin caring for COVID-19 patients. 

Medical experts including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said: “Indeed, the Governor’s order is likely to increase, rather than decrease, burdens on hospitals and use of PPE. At the same time, it will severely impair essential health care for women, and it will place doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals in an untenable position by criminalizing necessary medical care.”

Texans already have to navigate a long list of restrictions that force abortion patients to have medically unnecessary face-to-face contact with providers, and for some, push abortion out of reach altogether. These harmful restrictions include state-mandated in-person counseling and a mandatory 24-hour waiting period. For many people, traveling out of state or waiting weeks for their medical care will mean they won’t be able to access an abortion at all. 

The plaintiffs in this case — abortion providers throughout Texas — are represented by attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Lawyering Project, and the Law Offices of Patrick J. O’Connell PLLC. A copy of the ruling can be found here.

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Media Contacts:
Planned Parenthood Media Office: 212-261-4433; media.office@ppfa.org

Center for Reproductive Rights: 585-919-9966; center.press@reprorights.org

Lawyering Project: JMiller@lawyeringproject.org