Well, this is a pleasant surprise.
A federal appeals court on Monday blocked Texas from enforcing a ban on medication-induced abortions as part of the state’s curbs on certain medical procedures during the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result of fast-moving litigation over Texas’s abortion restrictions, women seeking to terminate an unwanted pregnancy may do so through the use of medicine, but only women nearing their 22nd week of pregnancy may undergo a surgical abortion.
In its Monday ruling, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said it sided against Texas because it was unclear if the state’s public health order halting nonessential medical procedures applied to medication-induced abortions.
“[Abortion providers] argue that medication abortions are not covered by [the order] because neither dispensing medication nor ancillary diagnostic elements, such as a physical examination or ultrasound, qualify as ‘procedures,’” the three-judge panel wrote.
“Given the ambiguity in the record, we conclude on the briefing and record before us that [Texas officials] have not made the requisite strong showing [necessary for] relief,” the panel said.
The panel’s decision partially reinstates a lower court ruling that limited the Texas health order’s impact on abortions.
Following the 5th Circuit’s ruling, abortion providers on Tuesday withdrew an application submitted to the Supreme Court over the weekend that had asked the justices to intervene.
See here and here for the background. It’s still far less than great, in that it accepts the premise that abortions aren’t essential health care and can be routinely delayed for political reasons, but at least it recognizes that dispensing medication is in no way a threat to the supply of PPEs. From this godforsaken court, that counts as a ringing victory. SCOTUSBlog and the Trib have more.