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Federal Appeals Court Reinstates Texas Abortion Ban Instituted During COVID-19 Crisis

As abortion providers were scrambling to schedule procedures in Texas during the coronavirus pandemic, a federal appeals court has effectively reinstated a ban on most abortions in Texas.

Reproductive rights groups have been battling with state Republican officials over whether Texas can ban the procedure as part of a larger effort to preserve medical supplies for health workers treating COVID-19. Texas is one of several states where Republican officials have tried to ban most abortions during the pandemic, and patients seeking abortions are being turned away.

For a second time, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has upheld the ban on most abortions.

Friday's 2-1 decision includes a narrow exception allowing abortions for pregnancies approaching the state's 22-week cutoff.

A lower federal court in Austin has sided twice with reproductive rights groups seeking to block the order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton. In a statement earlier on Friday, Paxton accused abortion providers of "demanding special treatment" not available to other health care workers and continuing to provide nonessential procedures. Major medical groups say abortion is a time-sensitive procedure that should not be delayed.

Planned Parenthood's acting president, Alexis McGill Johnson, released a statement that called the situation a "time of crisis" and said Texas is "sowing fear, confusion, and chaos." Planned Parenthood officials say clinics had begun scheduling appointments in Texas following a favorable lower-court ruling on Thursday, but had to stop as the appeals court order was issued on Friday.

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