On Tuesday, a U.S. appeals court ruled in favor of allowing Texas to be able enforce limits on the ability for women to obtain abortions because Texas deems them as non-urgent, non-essential medical procedures.
In light of the coronavirus’s rapid spread throughout the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued recommendations that inpatient facilities reschedule elective surgeries as necessary and the American College of Surgeons (ACS) issued recommendations to minimize, postpone or cancel electively scheduled surgeries and invasive procedures.
The three-judge panel from the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a federal judge’s orders that were issued last week on a 2-1 vote that had blocked Texas’s actions to cancel abortion procedures. This allows the state’s Republican governor’s emergency restriction orders to continue to be enforced by state officials.
The Texas government has a provision requiring the postponement of non-urgent medical procedures so that healthcare providers can focus on fighting COVID-19 as well as to free up space in medical facilities as the numbers continue to rise for patients who need to be hospitalized. COVID-19 is the potentially deadly respiratory illness that comes from the novel coronavirus whose spread across the globe has reached the level of a pandemic. Texas claims that abortion providers are covered under this provision.
If abortion providers and activists want to challenge the state’s order they will need to turn to the U.S. Supreme Court which has a 5-4 conservative majority.
The president of the Center for Reproductive Rights group, an abortion rights group representing clinics in the case, Nancy Northrup, said, “This is not the last word. We will take every legal action necessary to fight this abuse of emergency powers.”
Texas is not the only state that has taken the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to combat the right to abortion. There have been similar cases to this in conservative states across the U.S.
Abortions are time sensitive procedures in Texas because the state does not allow them to be performed on fertilizations that have gone past 20 weeks.
The right to abortion is protected by the U.S. Constitution as recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decisions. Proponents for women to have the rights to abortions claim that these state imposed restrictions for abortions being “non-essential” procedures, is unconstitutional.