April 14, 2020 - Late Monday night, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals backed down from its stay of a lower court’s temporary restraining order that had protected access to medication abortions under Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s COVID-19 order banning “non-essential procedures.” This means medication abortions — a two-pill process — are once again accessible in Texas, for now.
Last week, for a second time, the 5th Circuit blocked a temporary restraining order, making abortion largely inaccessible across the state. The appeals court ruled so quickly, it didn’t even allow providers to respond. In response, the abortion providers — represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Lawyering Project, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America — asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take emergency action to restore access to medication abortion. Only after that did the 5th Circuit ask the parties to further explain whether medication abortion is a “procedure.” This, despite the providers submission of numerous briefs in both the trial and appellate courts over the past few weeks making clear medication abortion is not a “procedure.”
Consistent with all of its briefings in the case, including several to the 5th Circuit, abortion providers — including 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 — once again explained that medication abortion consists of two pills that can be provided without any personal protective equipment (PPE).
Even with the 5th Circuit backing down and allowing medication abortions under Gov. Abbott’s COVID-19 order, abortion procedures remain unavailable to Texas patients unless their gestational age would exceed the state’s legal limit by April 22 (one day after Gov. Abbott’s COVID-19 order expires).
Statement of Dyana Limon-Mercado, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes
“Since Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order went into effect, hundreds of Texans seeking time-sensitive, essential abortion have faced ongoing anxiety and uncertainty. It is shocking but unsurprising that Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton have used the current global health pandemic to try and advance their extremist political agenda. For two decades, conservative leaders in Texas have tried restricting people’s rights to reproductive health care, instead of putting the health and well-being of Texans first. This is no more apparent than right now as communities struggle to deal with the hardships of COVID-19 and face increased burdens to access essential, time-sensitive health care. Rest assured, Planned Parenthood will continue fighting for its patients, no matter what.”
Planned Parenthood Texas Votes (PPTV) is the nonpartisan policy, advocacy and political arm for the Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas.