Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights have partnered with an abortion rights law firm to sue the state of Texas after Republican governor Greg Abbott declared abortion services “non-essential” amid the coronavirus crisis, forcing the nation’s largest abortion provider to shutter its doors.
Abbott issued the ban, Fox News reports, to protect the state’s supply of emergency medical equipment and personal protective gear “after warnings from health care professionals that patients sick with the coronavirus might overwhelm hospital capacity and deplete supplies, such as personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses.”
The governor implored health care providers like Planned Parenthood to postpone any procedures that are not medically necessary and donate their medical supplies to doctors and hospitals treating an influx of coronavirus patients.
Planned Parenthood, however, does not believe abortions are “non-essential” services and, Wednesday night, announced in an email to supporters that it would be suing governor Abbott to continue its practice statewide.
“Gov. Abbott and anti-abortion activists nationwide are forcing a legal and political fight in the middle of a public health crisis,” Planned Parenthood’s acting president said in her letter. “Elected leaders are expending valuable time and resources exploiting a global pandemic to score political points instead of rallying to respond to this crisis.”
“Abortion care is time-sensitive and essential health care that has a profound impact on a person’s health and life, which is why it is protected as a constitutional right. Texas is abusing the state’s emergency powers and we are filing suit today to stop it,” added the Center for Reproductive Rights’ own president.
The suit demands a restraining order be put in place against Abbott’s directive, and argues that Planned Parenthood uses only minimal personal protective equipment. The group claims that Abbott is “singling abortion providers and their patients out for differential treatment from providers of other medical services and their patients,” even though Abbott’s ban applies to all ambulatory surgical centers statewide.
Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive rights also claim Texas’s directive violates the 14th Amendment, because it restricts access to a constitutionally protected activity.
The abortion provider defended its lawsuit in a second fundraising email, suggesting that Planned Parenthood is somehow on the frontlines of the battle against coronavirus: “Planned Parenthood doctors, nurses, cleaning staff, counselors, and administrators do so much, from reassuring a scared patient to providing expert care without judgment. And right now, they’re putting their health and lives at risk to ensure patients get the information and care they need.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says he finds Planned Parenthood’s commitment to abortion in the face of a national pandemic “unconscionable” and says he will defend the state’s decision to shut down abortion services.
“It is unconscionable that abortion providers are fighting against the health of Texans and withholding desperately needed supplies and personal protective equipment in favor of a procedure that they refer to as a ‘choice,'” Paxton said on social media in response to Planned Parenthood’s announcement. “My office will tirelessly defend Governor Abbott’s Order to ensure that necessary supplies reach the medical professionals combating this national health crisis.”