US Appeals Court Bars Texas Restrictions on Abortion

A US appeals court ruled that medication-induced abortion procedures may continue, thwarting a Texas Executive Order to classify all forms of abortion as non-essential medical procedures during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New-Orleans on Monday partially reinstated a lower court’s ruling that blocked Texas’ predominantly Republican lawmakers’ attempt to classify all forms of abortion as non-essential medical procedures that should be banned under the COVID-19 emergency order.

However, in their opinion, the three-judge panel wrote, “[Abortion providers] argue that medication abortions are not covered by [the order] because neither dispensing medication nor ancillary diagnostic elements, such as a physical examination or ultrasound, qualify as ‘procedures.'”

The judges argued that, in case of medication-induced abortion, where the patient takes two pills in one day to induce abortion, it is not satisfactory substantiated that this should be classified as a medical procedure, neither that it would require the use of protective equipment or impede any medical procedures meant to battle the CCP virus, or novel coronavirus as it is commonly called, that causes COVID-19.

“Given the ambiguity in the record, we conclude on the briefing and record before us that [Texas officials] have not made the requisite strong showing [necessary for] relief,” the panel said.

Lower Court Ruling

On April 9, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin said Texas officials violated the U.S. Constitution by classifying abortion providers as covered by a state order that required postponement of non-urgent medical procedures to preserve hospital beds and equipment during the pandemic.

Yeakel’s ruling would allow Texas abortion providers to proceed with medication abortions as well as procedural abortions for women who risk meeting the state’s cutoff at 22 weeks of pregnancy.

Yeakel, in his ruling, described a procedural abortion as a non-surgical procedure that early in pregnancy is performed employing a technique in which a clinician uses gentle suction from a narrow, flexible tube to empty the contents of the patient’s uterus.

Yeakel issued a broader ruling on March 30, but that decision was reversed by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday. In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court said Yeakel had overstepped his authority and usurped Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s power to craft emergency health measures.

Within hours of the ruling, lawyers for abortion providers returned to Yeakel’s court with a more narrow request that he allow medication abortions and procedural abortions nearing the 22-weeks deadline.

Epoch Times staff and Reuters contributed to this report