Public Health

5th Circuit allows Texas to enforce abortion ban during pending appeal

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A federal appeals court is allowing Texas to enforce its pandemic-related abortion ban until the state’s arguments can be considered.

In a March 31 order, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans stayed a federal judge’s decision that blocked the abortion ban, report the Austin American-Statesman and the Dallas Morning News. How Appealing links to additional coverage.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin had granted a temporary restraining order Monday that blocked the ban, imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ban applied to all abortions except those needed to preserve a woman’s life or health.

Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers had sued after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said abortions couldn’t be performed under a state order to delay nonessential and elective surgeries.

One judge on the 5th Circuit panel, James Dennis, would have blocked Texas from enforcing the abortion ban. He also pointed to language of the state order, which said medical procedures are exempt from the order if they “would not deplete the hospital capacity or the personal protective equipment needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster.”

Abortion providers had argued that few abortions are performed in hospitals, and the doctors use little of the protective equipment needed to fight COVID-19.

Dennis is an appointee of President Bill Clinton. The two judges in the majority are Jennifer Walker Elrod, an appointee of President George W. Bush, and Stuart Kyle Duncan, an appointee of President Donald Trump.

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