Texas has ordered all abortion clinics in the state to stop performing abortions during the conronvirus outbreak, noting that they are elective and unnecessary procedures except in rare cases when a mother faces a medical emergency.
In a statement released Monday, Attorney General Ken Paxton ordered every hospital and healthcare facility to postpone all medically unnecessary surgeries and other procedures to ensure critically ill patients can be treated without delay. The order also applies to abortion facilities.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has increased demands for hospital beds and has created a shortage of personal protective equipment needed to protect health care professionals and stop transmission of the virus," the order reads in part.
"Postponing surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary will ensure that hospital beds are available for those suffering from COVID-19 and that PPEs are available for health care professionals. Failure to comply with an executive order issued by the governor related to the COVID-19 disaster can result in penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time," the statement added.
The prohibition applies to procedures that include "all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary, including routine dermatological, ophthalmological, and dental procedures, as well as most scheduled healthcare procedures that are not immediately medically necessary such as orthopedic surgeries or any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother."
The order will be in place until April 21.
"Pro-Life Texans have been appalled that the abortion industry has continued killing preborn children during the outbreak while statewide and local orders have recommended they close. Furthermore, the abortion industry has been consuming and hoarding medical supplies that are in desperate need around the state including masks, gloves, and other protective gear for medical professionals," Texas Right to Life said in a statement.
National Right to Life President Carol Tobias has called on abortion facilities nationwide to freeze abortion services temporarily during the crisis.
“Abortion clinics conducting business as usual in the presence of a life-threatening disease shows just how callous pro-abortion groups and abortionists are to protecting life at any stage,” Tobias said in comments to The Associated Press.
The state of Ohio, which is among the hardest-hit states by COVID-19, has also deemed abortions to be medically unnecessary amid the crisis.
The move comes after several Republican-controlled states passed pro-life laws on abortion during their legislative sessions in 2019. Thus far, only Texas and Ohio have made formal declarations about halting abortions during the public health crisis.
Elsewhere around the country, even in states with higher rates of COVID-19 infections such as Washington state, abortions businesses such as Planned Parenthood have remained open.
Abortion advocates maintain that putting a moratorium on abortions, even during a national crisis, is unlawful.
“Abortion is time-sensitive, essential health care,” said Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, president of the National Abortion Federation.
“Women deserve better than a craven exploitation of a health care crisis in furtherance of an anti-abortion agenda.”