Attorney General Becerra Joins Multistate Amicus Brief Challenging Texas’ Restrictions on Abortion During COVID-19
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a multistate coalition of 19 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the Fifth Circuit Court supporting Planned Parenthood health centers (Planned Parenthood for Choice, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, Planned Parenthood of South Texas), Whole Woman’s Health, and other providers in their case challenging a Texas executive order that declares abortion non-essential medical care during the COVID-19 response. The order would ban all abortion services in the state. In the brief, the attorneys general argue that abortion care is an essential healthcare service and urge the Court to enjoin the executive order, so that women can access needed, time-sensitive healthcare, including safe and legal abortion.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we should be making it easier for women to safely access time-sensitive, essential healthcare, not using a crisis as an excuse to pander to antichoice ideology,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We’re standing with attorneys general across the country to defend women’s right to reproductive healthcare, including safe and legal abortion.”
On March 22, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA 09, “relating to hospital capacity during the COVID-19 disaster.” The Executive Order prohibits all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve a patient’s life. In response to this Executive Order, on March 23, 2020, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a press release singling out abortion providers and suggesting that non-emergency abortions would violate the Executive Order and could be subject to criminal penalties, including jail time. This also precludes medication abortion which only involves taking medication and is neither a “surgery” nor a “procedure.” In essence, Attorney General Paxton’s press release operates as a near-complete ban on abortion in Texas during the COVID-19 public health emergency. As a result of the Attorney General’s statements, plaintiff providers have cancelled scheduled appointments and have stopped providing all abortion care. This means that the women of Texas do not have the freedom to make a very personal decision in consultation with their medical providers.
In the amicus brief the attorneys general argue that the executive order:
- Harms patients’ physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing, and the wellbeing of their families;
- Denies Texas women their fundamental right to determine when and whether to have a child or to add to their existing families; and
- Will force some women to travel to other states in search of services, increasing the potential for transmission of COVID-19 and the burden on state hospitals and healthcare workers.
In filing the brief, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District Of Columbia.
A copy of the brief is available here.