Texas on Monday became the second state to order abortion clinics to halt abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to save masks and other personal protective equipment.
The warning from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton applies to all licensed health care facilities and professionals, including abortion clinics and abortion doctors.
Paxton says he is enforcing an order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who on Saturday said “all licensed health care professionals and all licensed health care facilities shall postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary.”
“We must work together as Texans to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that our healthcare professionals and facilities have all the resources they need to fight the virus at this time,”
Paxton said in a statement. “No one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers. Those who violate the governor’s order will be met with the full force of the law.”
Paxton’s website says the governor’s order applies to routine dermatological, ophthalmological, and dental procedures, as well as “orthopedic surgeries or any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”
Ohio’s attorney general previously issued a similar order. Failure to comply with Paxton’s order can result in arrest and a sentence up to 180 days in jail.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased demands for hospital beds and has created a shortage of personal protective equipment [PPE] needed to protect health care professionals and stop transmission of the virus,” a statement from Paxton’s office says. “Postponing surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary will ensure that hospital beds are available for those suffering from COVID-19 and that PPEs are available for health care professionals.”
Pro-choice groups criticized Paxton’s order.
“Abortion is a procedure where time is of the essence and cannot be delayed without profound consequences,” Aimee Arrambide, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in a statement. “State leaders should ensure that Texans who need care can access it with the least amount of obstacles and medically unnecessary visits possible.”