Republican governors in states like Texas, Iowa, Alabama, and Ohio have been using the pandemic to make it impossible for people to get abortions, classifying abortions as “non-essential” medical procedures that should be suspended as part of social distancing measures. Now, anti-abortion officials may be able to use the pandemic to challenge Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.
Time reports that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Planned Parenthood in favor of Texas governor Greg Abbott’s ban on clinics offering abortions during the pandemic. Judges ruled that the clinic closures were part of “the state’s emergency measures” to curb the spread of the virus. But unwanted pregnancies don’t stop in a pandemic, and women in Texas and other states led by anti-abortion governments will now have no local access to a necessary medical procedure.
The ban and subsequent ruling forces women in need of abortions to travel great distances to get them, which puts their health in danger, and it also forces women who can’t travel to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.
Planned Parenthood says they will continue to take legal action against Abbott’s ban. “This is unconscionable,”Alexis McGill, Planned Parenthood’s acting president, said in a statement. “Abortion is essential, it’s time-sensitive, and it cannot wait for a pandemic to pass. Instead of playing politics during a pandemic, Gov. Abbott should be focusing on the health care needs of his constituents.”
Similar bans and lawsuits in Alabama, Ohio, and Oklahoma have been met with resistance in court. But the Texas ruling doesn’t bode well for abortion access in states like Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia, where governors were already mulling similar bans. Even more chilling: the Fifth Circuit’s ruling could eventually send the case to the Supreme Court, where it would serve as a knock against Roe v. Wade itself.