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Federal judge temporarily blocks Texas' ban on abortions during coronavirus pandemic

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Editor's note: this story has been updated to include comment from AG Ken Paxton.


A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked Texas' ban on abortions, a prohibition state officials said was necessary to preserve medical resources during the coronavirus pandemic.

The ruling came less than a week after Texas abortion providers announced a lawsuit against top state officials, challenging Attorney General Ken Paxton's assertion that Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning all procedures deemed to be not medically necessary should be interpreted to include abortions.

The court granted the abortion providers’ motion to temporarily block the state from enforcing the order, which was set to expire April 21, as it relates to abortions. The temporary restraining order will expire April 13.

“Regarding a woman's right to a pre-fetal-viability abortion, the Supreme Court has spoken clearly,” wrote U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel. “There can be no outright ban on such a procedure.”

Yeakel also wrote that people seeking abortions would “suffer serious and irreparable harm” if the ban were allowed and that temporarily blocking the executive order “will not disserve the public interest.”

“The attorney general's interpretation of the Executive Order prevents Texas women from exercising what the Supreme Court has declared is their fundamental constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus is viable,” Yeakel wrote.

Paxton said Monday evening he would seek immediate appellate review.

“I am deeply disappointed that the court ruled against the health and safety of Texans. My office is seeking prompt appellate review to ensure that medical professionals on the frontlines have the supplies and protective gear they desperately need. We will fight tirelessly against this politically-driven lawsuit to protect the health of Texans suffering from this COVID-19 crisis,” Paxton said in a statement.

Progressive groups applauded the judge for ruling in favor of the abortion providers.

"All patients accessing abortion deserve their care without delay,” said Tara Pohlmeyer, communications manager at Progress Texas. “Access to reproductive health care is especially important during a public health crisis, and this ruling means Texans have access to much-needed care. Instead of trying to distract with ideology, state lawmakers like Gov. Greg Abbott and indicted-Attorney General Ken Paxton can now focus on prioritizing public health and safety measures for the state.”

Yeakel also set a hearing for a more permanent injunction on April 13.

Disclosure: Progress Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/03/30/texas-attempt-ban-abortions-during-coronavirus-blocked-judge/.

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