Federal judges on Monday temporarily blocked efforts in Texas and Alabama to ban abortions during the coronavirus pandemic, handing abortion providers a victory as clinics across the US filed lawsuits to stop states from trying to shutter them during the outbreak. A new Ohio order is also unconstitutional if it prevents abortions from being carried out, a separate judge ruled Monday, per the AP. The ruling instructed clinics to determine on a case-by-case basis if an abortion can be delayed to maximize resources—such as preserving personal protective equipment—needed to fight the coronavirus. If the abortion is deemed necessary and can't be delayed, it's declared legally essential. The rulings indicated judges were pushing back on Republican-controlled states including abortion in sweeping orders as the outbreak grows in the US.
In Texas, the ruling came after state Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said abortion was included in a statewide ban on nonessential surgeries. One abortion provider, Whole Woman's Health, said it had canceled more than 150 appointments in the days after the Texas order went into effect. But "there can be no outright ban on such a procedure," wrote US District Judge Lee Yeakel. Paxton said the state would appeal. Lawsuits were also filed Monday in Iowa and Oklahoma, after governors in those states similarly ordered a stop to non-emergency procedures and specifically included abortion among them. Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights and local lawyers in each state say their aim is to stop state officials from prohibiting abortions as part of temporary policy changes related to the pandemic. (Read more abortion stories.)