Abortion Resumes in Texas After COVID-19 Ban

Local providers express anxiety state may halt services again

photo by Jana Birchum

After a months-long legal back-and-forth that sent abortion providers and patients into confusion and panic, Texas has finally allowed abortion services to resume.

“We know that the past month has been devastating and stressful for patients who have been forced to either delay or travel out of state to access time-sensitive, essential abortion care,” said Ken Lambrecht, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. “In the midst of a global health pandemic, patients have been forced to deal with a crisis within a crisis, and we are relieved that we can again provide high-quality, affordable and nonjudgmental care to Texans.”

Following guidelines from Gov. Greg Abbott, on March 23, Attorney General Ken Paxton singled out abortion care as a prohibited procedure that is not “immediately medically necessary” to ensure that hospital beds are available for COVID-19 patients and enough personal protective equipment is available for health care workers. Abortion providers shot back with a lawsuit arguing abortion is, in fact, essential, time-sensitive care – and even more so during a pandemic. Then began a legal ping-pong that forced abortion clinics to cancel hundreds of appointments, resume services, then cancel appointments again.

The governor’s order expired on Wednesday, April 22, at which point a second executive order fell into place. A legal filing from Paxton indicates that the state considers providers in compliance with that second order which allows more medical procedures to resume in health care facilities as long as they reserve a certain percentage of hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients and not request any personal protective equipment from any public source. “Every Plaintiff clinic has certified to HHSC that it meets the requirements of the new exception in [the new executive order],” it reads.

However, local providers are proceeding with understandable apprehension given the state and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ legal maneuvering that paused abortion services at least four times over the past few weeks. “We feel anxious, there’s a lot of trepidation,” Dr. Amna Dermish, Planned Parenthood South’s abortion doctor, tells the Chronicle. “We are very excited to provide services again but we are also pretty terrified that it may go away tomorrow.”

For more, check out our War on Women's Health page.

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abortion rights, Planned Parenthood, Amna Dermish, Ken Lambrecht, women's health care, Greg Abbott, Ken Paxton

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