A federal appeals court late Monday night ruled in favor of supporters of abortion rights and allowed an abortion procedure called “medication abortion” to be used in Texas while an ongoing legal challenge continues.
The order by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals is the latest development in a lawsuit that has been bouncing between federal courts in Texas, causing chaos on the ground for clinics and patients in the state. Monday’s ruling is temporary, but it could stall or maybe even avert a potential Supreme Court showdown over the issue.
The controversy began last month when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order that was interpreted to restrict abortion access in the state, citing a need to preserve personal protective equipment during the pandemic.
Supporters of abortion rights challenged the scope of Abbott’s order in court, triggering a legal battle that went back and forth between a district court judge who initially blocked the executive order as it applied to abortion access and a federal appeals court that twice reversed the district court judge.
The latest salvo came Monday night when the appeals court said it would deny a request from Texas to block medication abortions, a procedure where a patient takes two pills, which is often performed early in a pregnancy. Abortion providers say that no PPE is used for a medication abortion.
The court pointed to “ambiguity” in the current record as to whether medication abortions are covered by the governor’s order.
The court’s move means that a pending petition with the Supreme Court isn’t likely to be acted upon, at least for now.
CNN has reached out to the Texas attorney general’s office for comment on the ruling.
Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, called the ruling “very temporary relief for some Texans.”
“While people try and navigate their new realities under a pandemic – job loss, quarantining with abusive partners, or still having to work essential jobs – we need more abortion access, not less. This fight is far from over,” she said.