The pro-abortion rights groups' lawsuit further claims the order wrongly singles out abortion providers and their patients for differential treatment, compared to other medical providers and patients. The order "effectively bans abortion in Texas for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency," said the lawsuit.
Delays in securing abortion for women means "attendant risks to their health, well-being, and economic security," said the lawsuit, which argued that women should not be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their wishes.
"COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout do not reduce patients´ needs for abortion; if anything, they make timely access to abortion even more urgent," it said.
The lawsuit also objects to the ban on medical abortion, saying it is not surgery or a procedure. It argues that this shows the order explicitly aimed to limit abortion access.
Paxton's initial remarks stressed the need for Texans to work together to stop the spread of the coronavirus and to "ensure that our health care professionals and facilities have all the resources they need to fight the virus at this time."
"No one is exempt from the governor's executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers. Those who violate the governor's order will be met with the full force of the law," he said.
In Ohio, the state Department of Health canceled all non-essential or elective surgical abortions that use personal protective equipment. Officials said that abortion clinics were not singled out and letters of violation were also sent to a urology group that allegedly continued to perform surgeries.
Ohio's health department asked the state attorney general to issue a cease and desist order to Preterm, a Cleveland-based abortion clinic that continues to perform elective abortions despite statewide orders against elective surgeries.
In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves said that state directives to postpone elective and non-essential medical procedures apply to abortion. He pledged support for "whatever action we need to to protect the not only the lives of unborn children, but also the lives of anyone who may contract this particular virus," CBS News reports.
Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the State Health Officer at the Mississippi Department of Health, said he would review the situation.
In Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington, where pro-abortion rights support is strong, officials have said that orders halting elective surgeries do not apply to abortions.
(Story continues below)
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A March 18 joint statement from eight medical groups including the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, which tends to take pro-abortion rights stands, asserted that abortion is "an essential component of comprehensive health care."
The groups argued that abortion is "a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible." Not being able to obtain an abortion has consequences that "profoundly impact a person's life, health, and well-being."
On March 24, the Catholic Medical Association, along with several other medical groups, issued a statement critical of the March 18 pro-abortion rights statement.
The Catholic Medical Association statement said that abortion "generates more patients to be seen in already overburdened emergency rooms." Abortion providers themselves instruct women to go to an emergency room if they have any concerning symptoms.
"Approximately 5% of women who undergo medication abortions will require evaluation in an emergency room, most commonly for hemorrhage," the statement said. "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."
Some abortion providers are seeking medical supplies despite the need to fight the coronavirus.