March 30, 2020- Today, a federal district judge granted Texas abortion providers a temporary restraining order to allow abortion services to continue for the time being during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that patients seeking an abortion in Texas can get the essential and time-sensitive care they need, for now. This decision comes in response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s attempt to exploit the pandemic to block abortion access. His irresponsible and harmful actions forced a group of Texas abortion providers — represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Lawyering Project — to go to court to protect patients.
While doctors and nurses in his state work around the clock to care for patients suffering from COVID-19, Gov. Abbott inserted politics into what should be a personal medical decision. As a result, 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 — have had to cancel appointments for hundreds of patients in the ensuing confusion.
Judge Lee Yeakel wrote: “Plaintiffs' patients will suffer serious and irreparable harm in the absence of a temporary restraining order. The attorney general's interpretation of the Executive Order prevents Texas women from exercising what the Supreme Court has declared is their fundamental constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus is viable.”
Statement of Ken Lambrecht, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas
“Planned Parenthood, along with other healthcare providers in Texas, is committed to providing urgent healthcare while carefully implementing COVID-19 public health guidelines. Now that Texas Governor Abbott’s ban on abortions has been blocked, we can refocus on the patients counting on us. Banning abortions does not protect public health. Our doors are open for patients seeking essential healthcare.”
Statement of Melaney A. Linton, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast
“We are pleased that the court has blocked Governor Abbott’s attempt to ban abortions due to COVID-19, a dangerous and plainly political ploy that would put real people’s health at risk. We know that abortion is essential and time-sensitive, and we remain committed to ensuring our patients receive the care they need while also protecting our staff and conserving much-needed medical resources. Planned Parenthood is an essential health care provider, and our doors stay open.”
Statement of Jeffrey Hons, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood South Texas
“We are grateful for today’s emergency order, which provides our patients with relief as they try to manage their personal lives amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The court has recognized that abortion is essential, time-sensitive health care that cannot wait. People must be allowed to get the health care they need—especially now during these unsettling times. The safety and health of our patients and our staff will always be our highest priority.”
The plaintiff abortion providers 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 complaint filed last week can be found here.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Texas is the 501(c)(3) organizing and education arm of the three Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas.