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Federal Appeals Court Reinstates Texas Abortion Ban Instituted During COVID-19 Crisis

As abortion providers were scrambling to schedule procedures in Texas during the coronavirus pandemic, a federal appeals court has effectively reinstated a ban on most abortions in Texas.

Reproductive rights groups have been battling with state Republican officials over whether Texas can ban the procedure as part of a larger effort to preserve medical supplies for health workers treating COVID-19. Texas is one of several states where Republican officials have tried to ban most abortions during the pandemic, and patients seeking abortions are being turned away.

For a second time, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has upheld the ban on most abortions.

Friday's 2-1 decision includes a narrow exception allowing abortions for pregnancies approaching the state's 22-week cutoff.

A lower federal court in Austin has sided twice with reproductive rights groups seeking to block the order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton. In a statementearlier on Friday, Paxton accused abortion providers of "demanding special treatment" not available to other health care workers and continuing to provide nonessential procedures. Major medical groups say abortion is a time-sensitive procedure that should not be delayed.

Planned Parenthood's acting president, Alexis McGill Johnson, released a statementthat called the situation a "time of crisis" and said Texas is "sowing fear, confusion, and chaos." Planned Parenthood officials say clinics had begun scheduling appointments in Texas following a favorable lower-court ruling on Thursday, but had to stop as the appeals court order was issued on Friday.

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Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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