Tuesday night, Texas’ Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s March 21 executive order expired. The order had been the object of weeks of legal debate over the classification of medication and procedural abortion as a ‘non-essential’ medical procedure during the COVID-19 crisis.
On Wednesday, Gov. Abbott announced a new executive order, allowing certain medical procedures to resume, given they do not require significant hospital space and/or request excessive personal protective equipment from public sources. The new order will be in effect until May 8.
Gov. Abbott did not specify whether or not abortion was included in the group of medical procedures, suggesting that courts would be responsible for the final decision. Texas’ abortion providers unilaterally interpreted the new order as allowing at least medication abortion–which requires little medical attention and/or protective gear–to resume. State attorneys did not challenge their interpretation.
Whole Woman’s Health, an operator of independent abortion clinics in Texas, will proceed with medication and procedural abortion in its Fort Worth, Austin, and McAllen clinics this week. However, some other abortion providers are exercising more caution with their policy changes, wary of the state posing further obstacles to abortion access in the coming weeks. Many are reminding patients that their new appointments may be altered, and/or only offering medication abortions—the procedure that has remained at the center of the legal battle.
Pro-choice organizations have focused efforts on challenging similar bans in Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee. After the Texas order, pro-choice advocates and judges have successfully lifted bans—at least partially—in every state but Arkansas.
Sources: CBS News, 4/22/20; The Dallas Morning News, 4/22/20; Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 4/22/20