A federal appeals court has handed a defeat to Gov. Greg Abbott, permitting medication-induced abortions — which terminate a pregnancy with prescribed pills — to continue in Texas during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ruling issued by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is the latest development in a back-and-forth legal fight over an order by Abbott banning abortion under almost all circumstances — a move he argued saves medical resources during the outbreak.
However, in its opinion, the court’s three-judge panel said Abbott’s stated intention doesn’t bear a “‘real or substantial relation’ to the public health crisis we are experiencing.” Abortion providers have argued that medically induced abortions in particular do not require doctors to wear the kind of protective gear needed by hospitals during the pandemic.
“We applaud the most recent, necessary court ruling allowing medication abortions for Texas patients,” said Tara Pohlmeyer, communications manager at Progress Texas, in a statement. “Gov. Abbott and indicted-Attorney General Ken Paxton have continued to play politics during a global pandemic, when the truth is that abortion is essential, time-sensitive health care.”
It’s unclear what effect the ruling will have on a separate challenge abortion providers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear. Over the weekend, lawyers representing Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights requested that the High Court issue an emergency ruling on Abbott’s order.
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