UPDATE, 4/20/2020 An appeals court has now overruled the previous decision from U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, issuing a temporary restraining order. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling did uphold a portion of Yeakel’s mandate, which prevents Texas lawmakers from banning surgical abortions for women who would be past the legal limit for the procedure by the time the governor’s emergency order expires. The court heavily criticized Yeakel, though, saying his temporary restraining order “exceeds its jurisdiction, reaches patently erroneous results, and usurps the state’s authority.”
UPDATE, 4/15/2020: The Supreme Court will not hear a case to overturn Texas’ abortion ban. The coalition of abortion organizations suing to overturn the ban dropped their case after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed chemical abortions to be committed. Surgical abortions remain banned.
The Supreme Court may still have to intervene, however, as lawsuits to overturn abortion bans in other states are still taking place.
Original article, 4/15/2020: The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, after ruling last week to uphold Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic, has decided that chemical abortions (the abortion pill) will continue in the state.
According to the Texas Tribune, after the appeals court twice upheld the decision of the governor to postpone abortions in the state in order to save dwindling supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors helping patients with COVID-19, lawyers for abortion businesses in the state filed an emergency application requesting an exception for chemical abortions.
In its ruling on April 7, 2020, the appeals court stated that “constitutional rights may be reasonably restricted ‘as the safety of the general public may demand.'” Those rights, said the court, include “one’s right to peacefully assemble, to publicly worship, to travel, and even to leave one’s home. The right to abortion is no exception.” Since abortion is an elective procedure, and never medically necessary, states including Texas, Ohio, and Alabama have included abortion in the list of non-essential medical procedures that should be postponed during the pandemic. Texas’ order to stop procedures that are not “immediately medically necessary” began on March 22 and will stand until April 21 – though it can be modified if needed.
Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses in the state quickly filed a lawsuit on March 25 and U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel temporarily blocked the state’s order from applying to abortion facilities. He then issued a ruling that allowed abortion businesses to commit chemical abortions because he said the administration of the abortion pill does not require the use of as much personal protective equipment as a surgical abortion does. Yeakel also made an exception for women who were so far along in their pregnancy that if the abortion was postponed beyond April 21, they would pass the legal time limit on abortion in the state – 22 weeks.
Allowing chemical abortions to continue puts women at risk of major complications from taking the pill too late in the pregnancy after failure to have the pregnancy properly dated, and from taking the pill with an undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy. The abortion pill comes with health risks even without those considerations, which can lead to the need for emergency treatment in hospitals that are currently overrun with COVID-19 patients. Surgical abortions also carry dire complications including uterine perforation and hemorrhaging, which cannot be treated at the abortion facility and must be handled in a hospital setting.
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