Reproductive rights groups ask Supreme Court to ease Texas abortion restrictions amid pandemic

 

Reproductive rights groups on Saturday filed an emergency request asking the Supreme Court to ease abortion restrictions in Texas put in place amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The emergency request comes a day after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay, which temporarily blocked the decision from a lower court that ruled that some abortions could still take place under the coronavirus-related executive order that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) passed last month.

The March 23 order banned medical providers from performing nonessential surgeries and procedures during the pandemic. The order is vague in its language and doesn't specify which procedures are essential and which are nonessential, but Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) later said it applied to abortions.

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Abbott's order is slated to expire April 22. 

The lawsuit – filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Lawyering Project, and Planned Parenthood – asks the Supreme Court to reinstate a limited restraining order on the ban that a district court issued on April 9. 

At the moment, Texas women are prohibited from having medication abortions and surgical abortions are only available to Texas women about to reach their 22nd week of pregnancy.

“The past few weeks have been untenable for Texans in need of time-sensitive abortion procedures. We’ve heard patients grow increasingly more desperate for care. Gov. Abbott has blocked abortion access for mothers who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19, people quarantined with abusive partners, and patients with fatal fetal diagnoses," Planned Parenthood acting president and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement.

She added: "Now is the time to be making abortion more accessible, not less. Medical professionals everywhere are being trusted to make necessary but difficult decisions about if and when to treat patients. Doctors who provide abortions are asking to do the same — because they, not politicians, know what’s best for their patients. This is a matter of health care, not political opinion.”

Similar bans have been introduced in other states, including Ohio, Alabama, Iowa, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

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This is the second COVID-19-related case to reach the Supreme Court. Last Monday, Wisconsin Republicans asked the highest court in the country to reverse a lower court decision that extended the mail-in ballot postmark deadline beyond voting day. The court overturned that extension by a 5-4 vote.

Updated 6:33 p.m.