Texas Lawmakers Deem Abortion ‘Non-Essential,’ But Church ‘Essential’

In Texas, Abortion is 'Non-Essential,' But Church is 'Essential'
Pictured: Planned Parenthood rally in Austin, Texas, March 2012. (scATX)

Updated April 7, 4 p.m. PST.

CBS News reports:

Texas can continue to legally implement its near-total ban on abortion services amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday afternoon. Abortion services in Texas have been unavailable for more than two weeks, driving some patients to seek the procedure in neighboring states or terminate their pregnancy themselves.

In a split ruling Tuesday, two federal judges—Judge Kyle Duncan and Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod—ruled the directive was constitutional, despite Supreme Court precedent that protects access to abortion.

Judge Duncan was appointed by President Donald Trump and Judge Elrod by President George W. Bush.

Judge Kyle Dennis, appointed by President Bill Clinton, dissented, writing: “In a time where panic and fear already consume our daily lives, the majority’s opinion 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 travelling to other states in search of time-sensitive medical care.”

On Tuesday, March 31, a United States appeals court ruled to allow Texas to continue enforcing limits on people’s ability to obtain safe and legal abortions due to the state’s policy to postpone “non-essential” procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a New York Times release by Reuters, “Texas and other states that previously pursued abortion restrictions have sought to crack down on abortion availability during the pandemic

This has prompted abortion providers like Planned Parenthood and Whole Woman’s Health to sue to block the policies “after clinics said they were forced to cancel hundreds of appointments for abortions across the state.

In response to the 5th Circuit court’s decision, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin, Texas, ruled that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s actions to block abortion access “prevents Texas women from exercising what the Supreme Court has declared is their fundamental constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus is viable.

“The 5th Circuit is escalating the fear and confusion women seeking abortion in Texas are already experiencing,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

And, perhaps even more infuriatingly, on the same day that the appeals court allowed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on all abortion procedures to remain during COVID-19 emergency measures, Abbott declared church services an “essential service” that may continue during the pandemic.

The ongoing battle for access to abortion has been fast-moving in Texas this past week. On April 1, Forbes reported:

The state banned all surgical abortions, and then medication abortions, last week, but a federal district court blocked the ban on Monday in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Texas abortion providers by Planned Parenthood, The Center for Reproductive Rights and the Lawyering Project.

Then on Tuesday, March 31, an appeals court reversed the district court decision, allowing the abortion ban to remain in place until the case made its way through the courts.

Similar lawsuits are pending in other states as Alabama, Iowa, Ohio and Oklahoma attempt to ban abortions as well.

The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-moving.

During this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media.

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