5th Circuit Allows Texas to Continue Blocking Abortion Access During COVID-19 Pandemic
By Alyah Khan | April 7, 2020, 10:44 p.m.
April 7, 2020 - Today, in a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals used a rare procedural mechanism to rule that the district court was wrong to grant emergency relief to protect access to essential, time-sensitive abortion care. This allows Gov. Abbott to continue to use his COVID-19 order to block access to abortions. This is the latest twist in a lawsuit brought by Texas abortion providers — represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the Lawyering Project — to protect access to care. Plaintiffs include 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. Despite this setback, the providers will continue to fight for patients, who are now scrambling to access care during this pandemic.
Enforcement of the governor's order has already had a dramatic effect on patients’ lives, with some being forced to travel hundreds of miles in a pandemic to access basic and essential health care. People in 94% of Texas counties are 100 miles or more from the nearest abortion provider, and people in 72% of counties are 200 miles or more away.
Statement of Dyana Limon-Mercado, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes
“Hundreds of Texans are unable to access essential, time-sensitive abortion care right now because Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are more interested in scoring political points than protecting public health. We have seen relentless attacks on reproductive health care, including abortion access, for more than two decades in Texas, but the governor’s order is a new low. How cruel and out of touch with reality do you have to be to exploit a global health pandemic to further your own political agenda?”
“Although we had hoped the 5th Circuit would recognize that abortion is an essential health care procedure, Planned Parenthood won’t ever stop fighting for its patients and health centers. We will continue to mobilize and engage our 1 million Planned Parenthood supporters across the state to protect abortion access. Texans want real leaders, not political opportunists, during a global health crisis and both Abbott and Paxton are guilty of using COVID-19 to take away people’s rights and advance their own extremist political ideology.”
Planned Parenthood Texas Votes (PPTV) is the nonpartisan policy, advocacy and political arm for the Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas.