Texas will allow abortions to resume in the state after weeks of legal sparring, according to a Wednesday night filing from the state’s attorney general. For more than four weeks, abortion services have been largely unavailable in the state, marking the first time the procedure has been halted in a state in nearly 50 years.
On Tuesday evening, Governor Greg Abbott’s March 21 executive order suspending “non-essential” medical procedures amid the coronavirus pandemic — which the Attorney General Ken Paxton later clarified to include abortion — expired. On Wednesday, the new executive order went into effect. The new directive suspends some medical procedures but offers exceptions to providers that don’t use hospital beds or request personal protective equipment, like masks and gloves, from public sources.
Texas’ abortion providers argued they qualified for those exceptions — and the state agreed.
“… there is no case or controversy remaining, as Plaintiffs have already certified they are in compliance with an exception,” Texas’ attorney general wrote in the filing Wednesday evening.
“Finally, women in Texas can get the time-sensitive abortion care that they are constitutionally guaranteed,” Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told CBS News. “Women never should have had to go to court to get essential health care. We will be vigilant in ensuring there are no future interruptions to services, including by assessing the appropriate next steps to take in the case.”
Planned Parenthood and the Texas Attorney General did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The filing comes after weeks of sparring between the state and abortion-rights advocates. In early April, a lower court and an appeals court ruled that medication abortion, which involves a patient taking pills to terminate a pregnancy, could continue, despite the executive order banning all pregnancy termination “not medically necessary to preserve the life or health” of the patient.
But on April 20, a federal appeals court reversed that ruling, only offering an exception for patients who would be past the state’s legal limit by April 22, when the order was set to have expired. At the time, the battle seemed destined to reach the Supreme Court.
Seven other states are still facing legal battles over restricting abortion access during the pandemic. In a sweep of legal filings, a coalition of abortion rights groups have challenged similar bans in Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee. So far, judges have ordered bans to be at least partially lifted nearly everywhere but Arkansas.