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US Abortion-rights advocates sue Texas officials for limiting abortion access in coronavirus order

01:35  27 march  2020
01:35  27 march  2020 Source:   cnn.com

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Watch CBSN Live. Abortion - rights groups sue Texas over abortion ban amid coronavirus On Monday, Texas 's Attorney General Ken Paxton ordered that all abortions "not medically necessary Texas and Ohio have both imposed strict laws that limit abortion access . Ohio was one of the first to

Abortion providers sue Texas officials over executive order that halts most abortions . The abortion providers seeking a temporary restraining order — and eventually permanent injunction “The lack of clarity from the state has really thrown abortion access in the state into disarray and

a group of people holding a sign posing for the camera: WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Demonstrators shout slogans and hold banners in an abortion rights rally outside of the Supreme Court as the justices hear oral arguments in the June Medical Services v. Russo case on March 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Louisiana abortion case is the first major abortion case to make it to the Supreme Court since Donald Trump became President. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images) © Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Demonstrators shout slogans and hold banners in an abortion rights rally outside of the Supreme Court as the justices hear oral arguments in the June Medical Services v. Russo case on March 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Louisiana abortion case is the first major abortion case to make it to the Supreme Court since Donald Trump became President. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

A group of Texas abortion providers and abortion rights advocates are suing state officials after Texas opted to include abortions among nonessential surgical procedures that must be deferred or canceled to focus on the coronavirus pandemic.

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Ohio and Texas -- two states that have looked to limit abortion rights recently -- have opted to include abortions among non-essential surgical procedures that the states are temporarily delaying as coronavirus cases flood the health care system.

Texas included abortion among unnecessary medical procedures it ordered stopped to conserve medical resources during the coronavirus "Gov. Abbott and anti- abortion activists nationwide are forcing a legal and political fight in the middle of a public health crisis," PPFA acting president and

On Monday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton confirmed that "any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother" was included in Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's order that health care providers "postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary" to preserve a patient's life or condition.

Paxton noted that violating the order, which lasts until April 21, could result in fines of up to $1,000 or 180 days imprisonment.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday against Abbott, Paxton and other state officials by local providers, as well as Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, the groups called on a federal judge to block the restriction on abortion. They argued that it "violates Plaintiffs' patients' fundamental constitutional right to decide whether to have an abortion prior to viability."

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Abortion providers accused Republican leaders in Texas of exploiting the pandemic for politics after For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and Texas has been a battleground over abortion rights for a decade. Whole Woman's Health had also sued

Abortion rights advocates , including Planned Parenthood, have accused the states of taking advantage of the global pandemic to unnecessarily restrict abortion access . "A public health emergency is not the time to play politics," said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and chief

"The Texas Attorney General's enforcement threats are a blatant effort to exploit a public health crisis to advance an extreme, anti-abortion agenda, without any benefit to the state in terms of preventing or resolving shortages of (personal protective equipment) or hospital capacity," they wrote. "As a result of these threats, this week Plaintiffs have already been forced to turn away patients in need of time-sensitive care."

Texas is not alone in limiting abortion access in light of the coronavirus outbreak. State officials in Mississippi and Ohio have also limited abortions in response to the virus, saying that the steps are necessary to preserve protective supplies that are becoming increasingly precious as the pandemic worsens. But abortion-rights groups have decried the actions, saying officials are exploiting a public health crisis to advance a political agenda.

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Texas abortion providers sued the state Wednesday to challenge an order that prohibited procedures considered not medically necessary, including abortion . Texas Abortion Providers Accuse Gov. of ‘Playing Politics,’ Sue over Abortion Ban amid Coronavirus .

Instead, officials in Ohio and Texas are using the coronavirus crisis to achieve the longstanding political goal of reducing or ending abortion , even if it means putting patients at risk. The Texas order barring “any type” of abortion could apply to medication abortions .

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health and Whole Woman's Health Alliance, said on a press call Wednesday that their three clinics in Texas had canceled more than 150 appointments this week in light of the order.

Paxton's decision "has already created a health crisis on top of a health crisis," she said. "Abortion is essential health care and it is a time sensitive service."

Paxton accused the providers of looking to divert key health resources and vowed to uphold the order.

"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,'" he said in a statement to CNN. "My office will tirelessly defend Governor Abbott's Order to ensure that necessary supplies reach the medical professionals combating this national health crisis."

Abbott's office did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment on the lawsuit.

Texas has looked to restrict abortion rights and access in the last year. Texas lawmakers considered a bill in April that would allow a woman who undergoes an abortion procedure to possibly be charged with capital murder, a crime punishable by death in the state, and multiple cities have recently declared themselves "sanctuary cities for the unborn" and adopted unenforceable ordinances that claim to outlaw abortion within city limits.

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