April 8, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The legal dispute over Texas’ inclusion of elective abortions among the non-essential procedures being suspended during the coronavirus crisis may reach the nation’s highest court sooner rather than later, with observers anticipating the United States Supreme Court may weigh in on an appeal as soon as Wednesday.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have advised healthcare facilities to reschedule non-urgent appointments and elective procedures, both to limit the spread of the coronavirus and to free up time and resources to focus on infected patients.
Compliance with this guidance has been mixed, leading numerous states to mandate that facilities temporarily halt “non-essential” medical procedures. Among them, Texas has declared that elective abortions will be held to the same standards as all other procedures during this time, leading to a lawsuit demanding exemptions for Planned Parenthood and other abortion centers.
Last week, Judge Lee Yeakel of the Western District of Texas issued a temporary injunction against the suspension, which was quickly stayed by the Fifth Circuit. That court went on to deem the measure constitutional on Tuesday. The Supreme Court is expected to respond to an appeal as soon as today, NBC News reports.
Key to the Fifth Circuit’s ruling was the fact that the Supreme Court had ruled in 1905’s Jacobson v. Massachusetts that constitutional rights “may be reasonably restricted to combat a public health emergency,” and has never carved out an exemption for abortion (which is not a constitutional right, but is treated as one by current judicial precedent).
While it cannot be stated with certainty how the evenly-divided justices would rule, the case may ultimately turn not on the “right” to abortion itself, but on whether the current justices agree with Jacobson’s rationale for temporary restriction of actual constitutional rights.
In the meantime, pro-life medical professionals argue that allowing elective abortions to continue as normal puts business interests ahead of public health.
The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) says that while “elective abortion is neither ‘essential’ nor ‘urgent,’” it “does consume critical resources such as masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment, and unnecessarily exposes patients and physicians to pathogens.”
“Elective abortion, both surgical and drug induced, also generates more patients to be seen in already overburdened emergency rooms,” AAPLOG continued. “Most abortion providers instruct women to go to an emergency room if they have any concerning symptoms after the abortion. Approximately five percent of women who undergo medication abortions will require evaluation in an emergency room, most commonly for hemorrhage. Surgical abortions can also result in hemorrhage. Emergency room personnel – who are already struggling to meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic – will be further strained to provide care to these women.”