Planned Parenthood is leading a lawsuit filed Wednesday against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other administration officials, alleging the state’s temporary ban on elective abortions is “abusing” its emergency powers.
As Christian Headlines previously reported, Abbott initiated an executive order on March 22 ceasing all non-essential “surgeries and procedures that are not immediately necessary” in an effort to control hospital capacity, protect healthcare workers and save vital equipment and supplies for the statewide effort to fight the still-spreading COVID-19 virus. In a subsequent review of the order, Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled the mandate against non-essential procedures included abortion—except for those needed to protect the life of the mother.
“We must work together as Texans to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that our health care professionals and facilities have all the resources they need to fight the virus at this time,” Paxton—who is also named in the suit—said in a news release two days before the court action. “No one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers. Those who violate the governor’s order will be met with the full force of the law.”
Those not heeding the order can be fined up to $1,000 or be sentenced to up to 180 days in jail.
“@GovAbbott doesn't think abortion is essential or, apparently, time-sensitive.
So: we're suing, with our friends at @ReproRights and The Lawyering Project. See you in court.”
.@GovAbbott doesn't think abortion is essential or, apparently, time-sensitive.— Planned Parenthood (@PPFA) March 25, 2020
So: we're suing, with our friends at @ReproRights and The Lawyering Project. See you in court. pic.twitter.com/FIQJeKgK4l
The suit seeks an immediate injunction to block the ban. The pro-choice groups are arguing that the executive order violates the 14th amendment on two fronts. First by violating a patients’ right to "substantive due process" and, secondly, by violating the equal protection clause in "singling abortion providers and their patients out for differential treatment from providers of other medical services and their patients."
Nancy Northrop, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, took exception to the state’s interpretation that abortion was non-essential.
"Abortion care is time-sensitive and essential health care that has a profound impact on a person’s health and life, which is why it is protected as a constitutional right,” she said. “Texas is abusing the state’s emergency powers and we are filing suit today to stop it.”
Planned Parenthood’s acting President and CEO Alexis McGill-Johnson criticized Abbott and his team for what she maintains is a political fight in the “middle of a public health crisis.”
"Elected leaders are expending valuable time and resources exploiting a global pandemic to score political points instead of rallying to respond to this crisis," McGill-Johnson said.
Paxton countered their assertions in a Wednesday night tweet, vowing to aggressively defend the executive order on behalf of the governor.
"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,'" he posted. "My office will tirelessly defend Governor Abbott’s order to ensure that necessary supplies reach the medical professionals combating this national health crisis."
It is unconscionable that abortion providers are fighting against the health of Texans and withholding desperately needed supplies and— Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) March 26, 2020
personal protective equipment in favor of a procedure that they refer to as a ‘choice.’
Jonathan Saenz, president and attorney for Texas Values, also defended Abbott’s order.
“Abortion is not essential healthcare,” he said. “At a time when so many lives are at risk, we should all be able to agree that efforts to protect people from the coronavirus should be more important than the taking of a human life through abortion.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Scott Olson/Staff
Lori Arnold is a national award-winning journalist whose experience includes 16 years at a daily community newspaper in San Diego and 16 years as writer-editor for the Christian Examiner. She owns StoryLori Media and is a member of the Evangelical Press Association.