Gov. Abbott exploits COVID-19 pandemic to cut off abortion access
March 25, 2020 - Today, a group of Texas abortion providers — represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Lawyering Project — sued Gov. Greg Abbott and other state officials to ensure that patients can continue to access essential, time-sensitive abortion services during the COVID-19 pandemic. While doctors and nurses in his state work around the clock to care for patients suffering from COVID-19, Gov. Abbott inserted politics into what should be medical decisions. As a result, providers, including Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC), Planned Parenthood Greater Texas (PPGT), Planned Parenthood South Texas (PPST), Whole Woman’s Health, Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center, and Austin Women’s Health Center, are canceling hundreds of patients in the ensuing confusion.
Experts including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology agree that abortion is an essential, time-sensitive procedure that cannot be delayed. The groups note that delaying this care could “profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.” Delays or additional barriers to care can make it more difficult or even impossible for patients to access safe, legal abortion. For many people of color, who have always faced systemic barriers to health care and are more vulnerable to COVID-19, adding unnecessary restrictions on abortion access poses dangerous risks.
Statement from Marsha Jones, executive director, Afiya Center in Dallas, Texas:
“The Afiya Center serves Black women who do not have a lot of resources. For many of them, our organization is their final stop when they need abortion and reproductive health care. The last thing that Black women in Texas need to worry about is whether they can get the essential care they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Black women and other women of color already face barriers to accessing health care services. This is a time when we should all be pulling together to fight this virus, not infusing political agendas to score points at the expense of women accessing necessary health services."
Statement of Alexis McGill-Johnson, acting president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“The priority of Planned Parenthood health centers is ensuring that every person can access essential health care while conserving needed resources. Governor Abbott’s priority should be the same. Abortion, which is an essential, time-sensitive medical service cannot be delayed. A global pandemic is not some kind of opening to attack abortion. Gov. Abbott and anti-abortion activists nationwide are forcing a legal and political fight in the middle of a public health crisis.
“We will not stand by as the Governor of Texas and these anti-abortion groups put the health of our patients, and the community, at risk. Elected leaders are expending valuable time and resources exploiting a global pandemic to score political points instead of rallying to respond to this crisis. This will place lives in jeopardy. This is a distraction that Americans, including patients we serve in communities nationwide, cannot afford.”
Statement from Stephanie Toti, senior counsel and project director, Lawyering Project:
“It is disappointing that anti-abortion politicians are taking advantage of a global health crisis in order to advance their agenda. Texans need immediate access to time-sensitive health care, including abortion, not political grandstanding. The Lawyering Project is proud to stand with people in urgent need of abortion care as they fight back against these attacks.”
Statement from Nancy Northup, president and CEO, Center for Reproductive Rights:
“It’s unconscionable that the Texas Attorney General is exploiting this pandemic to end abortion in the state. 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.”
This political distraction is just one of the many examples of Gov. Abbott’s failed leadership. Not only does Texas already have some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation, but due to years of failing to protect the social safety net, Texans are fighting this pandemic with fewer hospitals, providers, and inadequate health insurance coverage.
Gov. Abbott’s relentless attacks against basic health care are nothing new. Texas has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country. Gov. Abbott passed laws in recent years that have chipped away at health care in his state. He’s blocked patients with low-incomes from accessing vital cancer screenings and banned insurance coverage of abortions.
The plaintiff abortion providers are represented by attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Lawyering Project and the Law Offices of Patrick J. O’Connell PLLC. A copy of the complaint filed today can be found here.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.