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After Weeks of Court Battles, Texas Abandons Abortion Ban Litigation

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) put an end to the dizzying litigation surrounding the state’s temporary abortion ban, which Paxton said was meant to increase hospital capacity due to the novel COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Paxton told a federal judge that a new executive order (GA-15) that took effect Wednesday lifted the restrictive measures being challenged.

In documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Paxton asked the court not to grant Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas’s request for a temporary injunction, saying that because Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) latest executive order exempts abortions from the list of banned “elective” surgeries “there is no case or controversy remaining.”

Under GA-15, elective medical procedures will be permitted provided the administering medical facility certifies that at least one-quarter of its capacity will be reserved for coronavirus patients and that it will not request any personal protective equipment (PPE) from any public source for the duration of the pandemic.

As previously reported by Law&Crime, the heated legal battle ping-ponged back and forth in the weeks since Abbott’s original March 21 order. Planned Parenthood and several abortion providers immediately challenged the ban, initially winning a temporary injunction at the district court level on March 30.

However, the very next day, conservative judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily reinstated the abortion ban by way of a terse administrative stay on the injunction.

One week later, the same court issued a significantly longer and harshly-worded decision in the matter, directing the district court to permit the abortion ban as long as the coronavirus remained a threat to public safety.

Two days after that, on April 9, the district court issued another temporary restraining order discarding several of the abortion restrictions in Abbott’s order, only to have the order vacated by the Fifth Circuit for the third time.

“Finally, women in Texas can get the time-sensitive abortion care that they are constitutionally guaranteed. Women never should have had to go to court to get essential health care,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights which represented several of the abortion providers in the litigation, said in a statement. “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.”

See below for Paxton’s full court filing:

Texas Abortion Ban Filing by Law&Crime on Scribd

Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.

[image via Gabriel Aponte/Getty Images for Concordia Summit]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.