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 Claire Chretien / LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., January 25, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday vacated a pair of lower court decisions affirming states’ right to suspend abortions during a pandemic, agreeing with Planned Parenthood that the question has since been rendered moot.

Early last year, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advised healthcare facilities to reschedule non-urgent appointments and elective procedures, both to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to free up time and resources to focus on infected patients.

Compliance with this guidance was mixed, leading numerous states to mandate that facilities temporarily halt “non-essential” medical procedures. Among them, Texas declared that elective abortions would 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.

Siding with Texas, Judges Kyle Duncan and Jennifer Walker Elrod of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that “[w]hen faced with a society-threatening epidemic, a state may implement emergency measures that curtail constitutional rights so long as the measures have at least some ‘real or substantial relation’ to the public health crisis and are not ‘beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law.’”

Abbott later revoked the suspension of elective surgical procedures, saying that whether the follow-up order applied to abortions “will be a decision for courts to make.” Planned Parenthood cited this development in its appeal to the Supreme Court, which the nation’s highest court has agreed renders the Fifth Circuit ruling moot, Bloomberg Law reports.

It’s not immediately clear what the ramifications of the decision will be, as it did not rule on the merits of the case and elective procedures are no longer suspended in most parts of the country. But Abbott had argued that the Fifth Circuit’s decision should stand on the grounds that it has been “cited hundreds of times in dozens of courts across the country in a fast-developing area of law.”

Throughout this debate, pro-lifers have argued that the abortion lobby, for all its rhetoric about abortion being healthcare, was actually seeking a special exemption for abortion from the limits being imposed on most actual forms of healthcare.

“Elective abortion, both surgical and drug induced, also generates more patients to be seen in already overburdened emergency rooms,” the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) argued. “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.”