Texas abortion ban put in effect during COVID-19 outbreak

People seeking abortions in Texas no longer have that choice during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a court ruling on Tuesday. A temporary ban on abortions has been implemented in the state during the pandemic, in accordance with Texas Gov. Greg Abbot’s (R) executive order to suspend any unnecessary medical procedures during this time. Shortly after Abbot’s order was released, Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) specified that order included abortion procedures unless there was a threat to the life of the mother. As a result, people across the state have been forced to either wait or risk contracting COVID-19 by traveling outside of the state for the procedure. 

The collective response of abortion rights groups to the Texas ban—which has been copied in other states such as Mississippi and Ohio—has been critical. Many see Gov. Abbot’s inclusion of abortion in his medical procedures order as another strategy to propel the pro-life ideology while making abortion even more policed. Medical workers that provide an abortion during this time could be fined $1,000 and face up to 180 days in jail. 

Planned Parenthood sued the state of Texas over the ban on March 25th, which granted them a temporary restraining order to prevent the ban from being rolled out while the case was argued. However, the state appealed the decision on Tuesday, allowing the ban to be put into effect.

Clearly, people and groups that are against abortion see Abbot’s order as a win. They’ve defended their stance, arguing that getting an abortion is an elective procedure and that medical efforts and supplies, such as masks, should be reserved for those fighting COVID-19.

“Abortion is an elective procedure or they wouldn’t call it a ‘choice,” said Mark Harrington, president of the anti-abortion group Created Equal. 

Despite the claims of anti-abortion proponents, doctors and gynecologists have come out defending their patients needs and the importance of reproductive healthcare, citing fear as a major obstacle for their patients.

“[…] Fear of contracting Covid-19, fear of losing their jobs and income, and fear of not being able to support their families. They should not have to fear losing access to reproductive health care, too,” said Dr. Ashley Brant, an OB-GYN in Ohio.

Those who decide to travel to get an abortion face an increased risk of contracting the virus. Not only is traveling dangerous, multiple visits to clinics and doctor’s offices (which are required by many physicians) only spike the chances of coming in contact with the virus. Low income people that are especially being affected by the economic impact of the outbreak are experiencing even more setbacks. Many cannot afford an abortion and because abortions become more expensive later in-term, the bans Texas and other states have put into practice will only cause more financial stress. 

In a statement released on Tuesday, Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson said, “While people everywhere are trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, politicians like Gov. Abbott continue this perverse obsession with banning abortion…we will not cower before politicians who insist on exploiting a global pandemic to score political points.” 

Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights groups like the Center for Reproductive Rights plan on continuing their fight against the ban in Texas and in other states around the country. For now, only time will tell what advancements are made as COVID-19 continues to grow.

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