As the coronavirus crisis gears up to enter its second month in the United States, it's become increasingly difficult to know on any given day whether abortion remains legal in Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott banned it as part of his emergency order in March. Abortion providers sued and got clinics reopened the following week, then Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton won an appeal at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, shutting the clinics back down.
Thursday night, the U.S. District Court handling the case in Austin handed out another temporary injunction, requiring the state to allow clinics to provide medication abortions, in addition to surgical abortions for patients who would be legally unable to obtain an abortion after the expiration of Abbott's emergency order on April 22.
Abortion providers and advocates celebrated the lower court's latest decision.
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"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," said Rupali Sharma, senior counsel and director at the Lawyering Project, one of the groups representing the providers.
Paxton, of course, is appealing, in hopes that Texans seeking an abortion will be forced to either carry their babies to term or travel hundreds of miles to obtain the procedure during a pandemic.
“For years, abortion has been touted as a ‘choice’ by the same groups now attempting to claim it is an essential procedure, and they decided to press forward despite a higher court ruling entered just days ago that a district court cannot block an executive order that protects public health during a crisis,” Paxton said. “My office will steadfastly defend Gov. Abbott’s order and the rule of law to ensure that hardworking medical professionals receive the supplies and personal protective gear they need to successfully combat this health crisis.”
That's where things stand, for now. Nothing but the constitutional rights of half of Texas' population in the balance.