Court allows Texas to ban most abortions during virus crisis

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shows a new executive order regarding reporting data about the coronavirus during a news conference on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Source: Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal appeals court sided Tuesday with Texas in allowing it to ban most abortions while the state is under an emergency order that limits non-essential surgeries during the coronavirus pandemic.

A panel of judges at the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a decision by a lower court that blocked the ban last week. The ruling allows the ban to stay in place.

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott last month ordered hospitals to cancel “non-essential” surgeries in order to free up hospital space and supplies that might be needed for coronavirus patients and doctors.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton then said the order would cover any abortions except for those needed to protect the health safety of the mother. Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups then sued to remove abortion from the procedures that should be delayed.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled last week that the “Supreme Court has spoken clearly” on a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy and ruled “there can be no outright ban on such a procedure.”

Texas immediately appealed. The appeal court's 2-1 ruling noted “the escalating spread of COVID-19, and the state’s critical interest in protecting the public health.”

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