The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel’s temporary restraining order for the third time, allowing abortions to be effectively banned in Texas during the COVID-19 pandemic. This potentially renews the possibility of a Supreme Court battle from the abortion industry.
Previously, chemical abortions were to be permitted in the state, but with the latest ruling, all abortions are able to be banned under Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order with one exception. When the executive order expires, which is currently scheduled for May 9th, any women past the state limit for surgical abortions must be allowed to have them.
In Fifth Circuit’s majority opinion, the court criticized Yeakel harshly. They stated that, for example, Yeakel instituted his restraining order “without knowing critical facts such as whether, during this pandemic, abortion providers do (or should) wear masks or other protective equipment when meeting with patients.”
The abortion industry, including Planned Parenthood and Whole Woman’s Health, tried to claim that chemical abortions are not really abortion procedures, and do not require any protective equipment. But the appeals court pointed out that staffers use PPE during initial exams and follow-up visits for chemical abortions — and if complications arise, PPE will of course be needed at any facility or hospital attempting to treat the woman for abortion pill complications.
The appeals court also accused Yeakel of implementing a restraining order which “exceeds its jurisdiction, reaches patently erroneous results, and usurps the state’s authority to craft emergency public health measures.” Gov. Abbott’s executive order bans all elective procedures, and therefore, abortion should logically be included. Yet Yeakel, according to the appeals court, was politicizing the issue.
“Once again, the dissenting opinion accuses the majority of treating abortion differently and once again it is wrong,” Circuit Judges Jennifer Walker Elrod and Kyle Duncan wrote in the majority opinion. “At issue is whether abortion can be treated the same as other procedures under GA-09. It is the district court that treated abortion differently, issuing back-to-back TROs that did not follow the law.” (emphasis added)
Yet the abortion industry ignored this, continuing to politicize the issue and holding abortion to be separate from legitimate health care procedures — all while arguing that abortion is legitimate health care. “Unbelievable. If [Gov. Abbott] *really* cared about the health and safety of Texans, he wouldn’t be forcing people to leave their homes, drive hundreds of miles, and endanger themselves (and others) JUST to access time-sensitive care,” Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, tweeted. “This is politics at its absolute worst.”
Planned Parenthood also tweeted resources to help pro-abortion activists “fight back,” indicating that while this saga has ended with a victory for life at the moment, the battle is far from over.
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