(REVISED 4.22.2020) This litigation challenges actions taken by Governor Greg Abbott and other state officials to ensure that patients can continue to access essential, time-sensitive abortion services during the COVID-19 pandemic. While doctors and nurses in his state worked around the clock to care for patients suffering from COVID-19, Gov. Abbott inserted politics into what should be medical decisions, forcing providers to cancel hundreds of patients' appointments in the ensuing confusion.
Experts, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, agree that abortion is an essential, time-sensitive procedure that cannot be delayed. The groups note that delaying this care could “profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.” Delays or additional barriers to care can make it more difficult or even impossible for patients to access safe, legal abortion. For many people of color, who have always faced systemic barriers to health care and are more vulnerable to COVID-19, adding unnecessary restrictions on abortion access poses dangerous risks.
Plaintiff(s): Planned Parenthood Center for Choice; Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services; Planned Parenthood South Texas Surgical Center; Whole Woman's Health; Whole Woman's Health Alliance; Southwestern Women's Surgery Center; Brookside Women's Medical Center PA d/b/a Brookside Women's Health Center and Austin Women's Health Center; and Robin Wallace, M.D.
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Planned Parenthood Federation of America and The Lawyering Project
Summary: On March 25, 2020, we filed a complaint and request for a temporary restraining order to block a Texas Executive Order and subsequent Attorney General interpretation of that order regarding COVID-19 that prohibited all abortions except for in cases of medical emergency. On March 30, the district court granted the request for a TRO, and the State filed an emergency mandamus petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. On March 31, the Fifth Circuit issued an administrative stay of the injunction pending a decision on the mandamus petition, which the appellate court then granted on April 7.
The trial court then granted a more limited TRO on April 9, which prompted the State to file another mandamus petition with the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit again issued an administrative stay of the TRO pending a decision on the State’s petition on April 10, except for the portion of the TRO blocking the State from banning abortion for patients who would be at or past the gestational limit in Texas (22 weeks LMP) when the EO expired. On April 11, we filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court asking them to lift the stay. On April 13, the Fifth Circuit lifted the portion of the administrative stay of the TRO that was blocking the State from banning medication abortion, again still pending a final decision on the mandamus petition, and in response we withdrew our petition with the Supreme Court on April 14.
On April 20, the Fifth Circuit granted the State's second mandamus petition, allowing the State to again prohibit medication abortion. On April 22, the State confirmed that the new Executive Order taking effect the same day permits abortion clinics to resume providing care.