Court lifts part of order blocking Texas abortion ban

A federal appeals court has partially lifted a lower-court order that largely blocked the enforcement of a Texas abortion ban during the coronavirus pandemic

By a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld enforcement of an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that includes abortion among non-essential medical procedures banned during the state of emergency.

However, the appeals court allowed the procedure to go ahead if delays would place the pregnancy beyond the 22-week state cutoff for abortions.

The ruling was agreed to by Judges Jennifer Walker Elrod, an appointee of President George W. Bush, and Kyle Duncan, an appointee of President Donald Trump. Judge James L. Dennis, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, dissented and opposed any stay of the lower-court order.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin had blocked the total ban in Abbott's executive order last week, but the appeals court overturned that order when the state appealed. Planned Parenthood and other women's clinics then asked the Austin judge to allow non-surgical abortions by medication or abortions if delay would take a pregnancy beyond the 22-week state legal barrier. Yeakel granted that request Thursday, but the state appealed immediately again.

Abbott’s original March 22 order was to expire April 21 but can be extended.

Similar legal fights are being waged in Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma and Iowa.