In one of the most high-profile challenges to a government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of Texas abortion providers have sued Governor Greg Abbott and other state officials in protest of his administration’s exploitation of the pandemic to stop most abortions. The abortion providers, represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the Lawyering Project, contend that abortion is a essential, time-sensitive procedure that must to be available in during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued the abortion ban, in effect until at least April 21, is intended to help manage health care capacity in the state as the number of COVID-19 patients rises. Violators of the ban could face up to $1000 in fines and/or 180 days in jail.
“It is disappointing that anti-abortion politicians are taking advantage of a global health crisis in order to advance their agenda. Texans need immediate access to time-sensitive health care, including abortion, not political grandstanding. The Lawyering Project is proud to stand with people in urgent need of abortion care as they fight back against these attacks,” said Stephanie Toti, senior counsel and project director of the Lawyering Project.
Sealy Massingill, the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, emphasized that delaying abortion procedures by just a few weeks could make certain abortions impossible, as patients’ pregnancies reach legal timeline deadlines.
Furthermore, additional barriers pose heightened dangers for many people of color, who already face systemic barriers to health care and are more vulnerable to the spread and consequences of COVID-19.“[Our clinic] serves Black women who do not have a lot of resources. For many of them, our organization is their final stop when they need abortion and reproductive health care. The last thing that Black women in Texas need to worry about is whether they can get the essential care they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Black women and other women of color already face barriers to accessing health care services. This is a time when we should all be pulling together to fight this virus, not infusing political agendas to score points at the expense of women accessing necessary health services,” stated Marsha Jones, executive director of the Afiya Center in Dallas, Texas.
In fact, attacks on basic health care are not new for Gov. Abbott’s administration. Gov. Abbott has championed legislation that perpetuates a high uninsured rate in Texas and prevents low-income Texans and people of color from accessing essential health care services.
Planned Parenthood, 3/25/20; The Texas Tribune, 3/25/20; ABC News, 3/25/20; Rewire, 3/23/20