Texas said clinics can once again offer all legal abortion services so long as they stick to their promise not to accept publicly provided medical masks, gloves and gowns for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
The state notified an Austin federal judge Wednesday that clinics have the green light to resume all legal abortions at facilities that have certified they will abide by the Republican governor’s new public health order that took effect earlier in the day. Like the governor’s earlier directive, the new one bans all nonessential medical procedures — including abortion — but exempts elective procedures at facilities that promise not to deplete public stockpiles of personal protective equipment and to reserve 25% of their hospital beds for treating Covid-19 patients.
Texas said all the abortion clinics that sued to restore the right to perform elective procedures had submitted certifications that will let them use the new exemption. As a result, Texas said, there’s nothing left for the Austin judge to block.
Wednesday’s de-escalation follows a month of back and forth rulings between U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin and a three-judge appeals panel in New Orleans. The Austin judge consistently sided with the clinics to maintain women’s constitutional right to access pre-viability abortions. The appeals court repeatedly cited a century-old Supreme Court case giving public officials the right to temporarily suspend constitutional rights during a public-health emergency.