News & Politics

Fifth Circuit Upholds Texas Coronavirus Abortion Ban Amid Planned Parenthood Lawsuit

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On Tuesday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a temporary stay, allowing the state of Texas to temporarily close abortion facilities to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the coronavirus crisis. States across the country have ordered a pause on non-essential surgical procedures that use PPE, like most abortions. The Texas ban does not apply to abortions necessary to save the life of the mother. Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities filed a lawsuit against Texas, leading to a district court to issue a temporary stay on the order.

The Fifth Circuit stayed the district court’s order to delay the policy.

Planned Parenthood and the other abortion groups claimed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, violated their rights to due process and equal protection of the laws by preventing the facilities from killing babies during this emergency.

“The Texas Attorney General’s enforcement threats are a blatant effort to exploit a public health crisis to advance an extreme, anti-abortion agenda, without any benefit to the state in terms of preventing or resolving shortages of PPE [personal protective equipment] or hospital capacity,” the lawsuit claims. “As a result of these threats, this week Plaintiffs have already been forced to turn away patients in need of time-sensitive care.”

Yet pro-life leaders have urged Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to direct abortion facilities to pause their baby-killing in an effort to preserve vital medical supplies for strapped hospitals and health care centers.

“At a time when hospitals are overloaded, the abortion industry is putting women at risk of incomplete abortion, hemorrhage, and infection,” the letter reads. “By ceasing both surgical and chemical abortions now, Planned Parenthood will free up much needed medical equipment and decrease the demand placed on ER’s due to complications from both medical and surgical abortion.”

Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit claims that Paxton “singled out” abortion facilities, but the attorney general’s directive was extremely broad. Abbott ordered “all licensed health care professionals” to “postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition of, or to preserve the life of, a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician.”

“This prohibition applies throughout the State and to all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary, including routine dermatological, ophthalmological, and dental procedures, as well as most scheduled healthcare procedures that are not immediately medically necessary such as orthopedic surgeries or any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother,” Paxton’s press release reads (emphasis added).

Abortionists who continue to use vital health care resources to kill babies and perform procedures that could bring complications landing women in the hospital would face fines up to $1,000 or 180 days in jail. Abortionists argue that the killing of babies is essential, but few procedures are more “elective.”

States across the country have directed health care providers to cancel elective surgeries to conserve medical supplies. Mississippi and Ohio have also directed abortion facilities to cease using these vital resources during this pandemic. Virginia and New Jersey, however, have directed hospitals to cancel elective procedures but insisted that abortion should be considered essential. Ohio abortionists have defied cease-and-desist orders.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.