Several abortion providers across the state, including Planned Parenthood, have filed a complaint against Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton for prohibiting abortions under an executive order requiring non-essential surgeries to be postponed during the response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The order, issued by Abbott on Sunday, requires all licensed health care professionals and facilities to “postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately necessary” to preserve a patient’s life.
It provides an exception for non-essential procedures as long as they “would not deplete the hospital capacity or the personal protective equipment needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster.”
Paxton clarified on Monday that the order applies to abortion facilities, stating that, “No one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers.”
Violators of the law can be fined up to $1,000 or receive 180 days of jail time.
The abortion providers responded to the order and Paxton’s clarification with a lawsuit on Wednesday.
They asked the court for an injunction against the government from enforcing the executive order and demanded a judgment that the executive order and interpretation regarding abortion be found to violate the Fourteenth Amendment.
Their complaint argues that the restrictions “violate the right to substantive due process,” and that “by selectively burdening patients’ fundamental right to abortion without justification and singling abortion providers and their patients out for differential treatment from providers of other medical services and their patients,” Abbott and Paxton are violating the equal protection clause.
“Anyone seeking an abortion in Texas already faces unnecessary hurdles created by the Texas Governor and statewide politicians that make it difficult for patients to access abortion,” said Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas CEO Ken Lambrecht. “Banning abortion due to COVID-19 is dangerous, unprecedented[,] and does not protect public health.”
While Abbott has not released any statements on the restriction to abortion providers, Paxton said that he plans to defend the policy.
“It is unconscionable that abortion providers are fighting against the health of Texans and withholding desperately needed supplies and personal protective equipment in favor of a procedure that they refer to as a ‘choice,’” stated the attorney general on social media.
“My office will tirelessly defend Governor Abbott’s Order to ensure that necessary supplies reach the medical professionals combating this national health crisis.”
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.