Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser joined a coalition of 19 attorneys general across the nation in opposing Texas’ ban on abortion services during the coronavirus pandemic.
In an amicus brief filed Friday, the attorneys general argue that states can effectively address the public health threat posed by coronavirus while allowing abortion clinics to continue operating, challenging conservatives’ calls for abortion clinics nationwide to be deemed non-essential.
On March 22, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order postponing all procedures not deemed immediately medically necessary.
The following day, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that all abortion services, except those necessary to save the life of the mother, were included under the governor’s order.
Since then, a legal battle has ensued. Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights quickly filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Texas order. A week after the ban was instated, a district court judge blocked the order from taking effect. Just a day later, however, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals halted the district court’s decision, and the ban was reinstated.
Now, those seeking abortion care in Texas are forced to travel to nearby states — like Colorado — in order to visit an abortion clinic.
Conservatives’ arguments for banning abortion during coronavirus include concerns about the use of Personal Protective Equipment, like masks, that is in short supply for health care workers, and that allowing in-person visits to abortion clinics could cause exposure to the virus.
Abortion rights advocates, on the other hand, say that the bans amount to political opportunism and that conservatives are using coronavirus as an excuse to achieve their longtime goal of shuttering abortion clinics.
The amicus brief, which was filed in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, argues that banning abortion is unnecessary to fight COVID-19, and states that “most pre-viability abortions do not use PPE or hospital services, and thus restricting such abortions does not appreciably preserve those resources.”
The attorneys general also argue that the time-sensitive nature of abortion makes it an essential service.
“Because abortions cannot readily be postponed for weeks or months, and also effectuate the constitutional right to choose to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, abortions are on a different footing from the types of medical services that can be considered ‘nonessential,'” the brief states.
The effort was led by New York Attorney General Tish James.
In a tweet last week, Weiser thanked her for her leadership on the issue, writing that they stand together in the “fight for equal rights for all.”
Several states with Republican governors have moved to limit abortion services during the coronavirus pandemic, including Ohio, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Alabama.
Federal judges in most states that are attempting to ban abortions have blocked these orders from taking effect, most recently yesterday in Oklahoma.