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A federal appeals court stepped in Tuesday to allow medication abortions in Texas, after Gov. Greg Abbott last month barred nonessential medical treatments to free up resources for the coronavirus pandemic.
One day later, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that abortions should not be performed unless the mother’s life is in danger, as the order — set to expire April 21 — should be interpreted to cover abortion clinics.
But a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that medication abortions, which can be used for pregnancies up to 10 weeks, would be allowed to go forward. In a concurrence, Judge James L. Dennis wrote that Texas’ move to ban medication abortions “is a strong indication that the enforcement is pretextual and does not bear a ‘real or substantial relation’ to the public health crisis we are experiencing.”
Over the weekend, Texas abortion clinics asked the Supreme Court to step in to allow the procedure, arguing that medication abortions do not require personal protective equipment like masks, gloves and gowns that might be needed to fight coronavirus. Abortion clinics withdrew their request from the Supreme Court after the circuit court made concessions for medication abortions.
APPEALS COURT ALLOWS TEXAS TO BAN MOST ABORTIONS DURING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
Such procedures require two pills, one to be taken in office and a second pill 24 to 48 hours later, typically taken at home.
This was after last week the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled 2-1 allowing the state to continue to ban most abortions, overturning the decision of a lower court.
APPEALS COURT REINSTATES TEXAS ABORTION RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
“In the unprecedented circumstances now facing our society, even a minor delay in fully implementing,” the court had written before deciding to ease the restrictions.
Also Monday, a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a lower-court order that upheld an Oklahoma coronavirus ban on abortion.
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The 6th U.S. Circuit Court also declined to hear an appeal to reverse a judge’s temporary restraining order which allowed abortion facilities in the state to continue to perform surgical abortions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.