Tags: Abortion | Trump Administration | abortion | clinics | texas | limits | supreme

Abortion Clinics Ask Supreme Court to Ease Texas Limits

Saturday, 11 April 2020 07:58 PM

Texas abortion clinics sought emergency U.S. Supreme Court intervention to ease sweeping restrictions on the procedure imposed by state officials during the coronavirus crisis.

The filing Saturday came after a federal appeals court let the state block most abortions as way to conserve masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment needed to shield health-care workers from the virus.

The clinics are seeking to let pill-induced abortions resume, saying they don’t require protective equipment. Until Texas imposed the temporary ban, it had allowed medication abortions through the 10th week of pregnancy.

“No other court in the country has countenanced the type of categorical ban on medication abortion the state is attempting to enforce here as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the clinics argued. “Accordingly, Texas now has the most restrictive abortion policy in the nation.”

It’s the second emergency coronavirus case to reach the conservative-controlled high court in recent days.

On April 6, a sharply divided court sided with Republicans by requiring absentee ballots for Wisconsin’s presidential primary to be postmarked by election day, April 7. In dissent, the court’s four liberals said failing to allow an extension would force tens of thousands of people to either forfeit their voting rights or risk their health by going to the polls.

Surgeries Banned

The Texas ban stems from Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s March 22 order temporarily barring all non-essential surgeries in the state and GOP Attorney General Ken Paxton’s decision to enforce the prohibition against abortion clinics. Abbott’s order applies through April 21 but could be extended.

Clinics sued, and the dispute began traveling up and down the court system. After U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel temporarily blocked the ban, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it on a 2-1 vote.

Under Supreme Court precedent, “all constitutional rights may be reasonably restricted to combat a public health emergency,” Judge Kyle Duncan, an appointee of President Donald Trump, wrote for the 5th Circuit majority in that April 7 ruling.

The 5th Circuit left open the possibility that pill-induced abortions might eventually be permitted, but Duncan’s opinion indicated the clinics would need to provide evidence that personal protective equipment wouldn’t be used.

Two days later, Yeakel issued a new order allowing pill-induced abortions as well as surgical abortions for women who are so far along in pregnancy they might otherwise pass Texas’s legal limit of 22 weeks.

The appeals court panel then reinstated the ban on pill-induced abortions, saying it had expected Yeakel to engage in a “careful parsing of the evidence.” The panel, however, allowed abortions for women approaching their 22nd week of pregnancy.

The dissenting 5th Circuit judge, James Dennis, said the April 7 ruling “inflicts further panic and fear on women in Texas by depriving them, without justification, of their constitutional rights, exposing them to the risks of continuing an unwanted pregnancy, as well as the risks of traveling to other states in search of time-sensitive medical care.”

The governor’s ban on non-essential surgeries makes an exception for patients at risk of “serious adverse medical consequences or death.” The order carries criminal penalties for violators.

Court decisions have let abortions continue in other states where officials sought to block them during the coronavirus pandemic.

The case will test a Supreme Court that became more conservative on abortion when Justice Brett Kavanaugh took his seat in 2018. Since then, the justices have moved cautiously on the subject, though they are scheduled to rule in the coming months on Louisiana’s requirement that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The latest request was filed with Justice Samuel Alito, a Republican appointee who handles emergency matters from Texas. Alito could act on his own or, as is typical in controversial matters, refer the issue to the full nine-member court.

The case is Planned Parenthood Center for Choice v. Abbott, 19A1019.

© Copyright 2021 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.


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Texas abortion clinics sought emergency U.S. Supreme Court intervention to ease sweeping restrictions on the procedure imposed by state officials during the coronavirus crisis.The filing Saturday came after a federal appeals court let the state block most abortions as way...
abortion, clinics, texas, limits, supreme, court
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2020-58-11
Saturday, 11 April 2020 07:58 PM
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