U.S. Supreme Court

Emergency petition asks Supreme Court to allow medication abortions in Texas

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Abortion providers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow medication abortions in Texas through 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Such abortions should not be prohibited under an order that bans nonessential and elective surgeries in Texas because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the abortion providers argue.

The abortion providers filed their emergency application Saturday and are seeking a stay of a 2-1 order by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans, report the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The appeals court decision Friday had blocked medication abortions in Texas but allowed abortions for women in such a late stage of pregnancy that their abortions would be illegal after the nonessential-surgery ban ends April 21.

The appeals court was acting on a second temporary restraining order by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel that allowed medication abortions and the later-stage abortions.

It was the second time that the 5th Circuit had vacated a temporary restraining order by Yeakel. In his first TRO, Yeakel blocked the state’s pandemic-related abortion ban in a broader decision. On March 31, the 5th Circuit allowed Texas to enforce the abortion ban until the state’s arguments could be considered. Then on April 7, the appeals court vacated the first TRO.

The abortion providers’ emergency application said no other court has upheld a categorical ban on medication abortions as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Delaying abortions by weeks does nothing to further the state’s interest in combatting COVID-19, and indeed runs directly contrary to that interest,” the application said. “Individuals will require more health care—even in the short term—if they remain pregnant than if they have a desired abortion, and some will engage in risky, out-of-state travel in an attempt to access earlier abortion services, thus increasing contagion risks in the midst of a pandemic.”

The two judges in the 5th Circuit majority were Jennifer Walker Elrod, an appointee of President George W. Bush, and Stuart Kyle Duncan, an appointee of President Donald Trump. A third judge who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, James Dennis, dissented.

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