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Attorney General of Virginia

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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING CONTINUES FIGHT TO PROTECT WOMEN’S REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

~ Herring joins coalition of 19 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief against Texas’ unconstitutional ban on essential reproductive healthcare ~

 

 

RICHMOND (April 3, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today continued his fight for women’s reproductive rights by joining a coalition of 19 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief opposing Texas’ directive banning nearly all abortion services in the state, using the COVID-19 public health crisis as an excuse. The amicus brief was filed in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

 

“Every woman has a constitutional right to make her own choices about her reproductive health without her government getting involved,” said Attorney General Herring. “Lawmakers in Texas should be focused on efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 instead of taking advantage of a public health crisis to sneak in policies that are based on ideology not science.”

 

On Sunday, March 22, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-09, “postpon[ing] all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary” in the State of Texas for at least 30 days. The next day, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that the executive order banned abortion services unless the life of the mother was in jeopardy. The executive order also states that any health care worker caught defying the order could be fined up to $1,000 and/or imprisoned in jail for up to 180 days.

 

Last Wednesday, March 25, a lawsuit was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Lawyering Project in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, which called on the courts to immediately issue a temporary restraining order blocking the ban.

 

Earlier this week, District Court Judge Lee Yeakel issued a temporary restraining order that stopped the abortion ban from taking effect, stating, “Regarding a woman’s right to a pre-fetal-viability abortion, the Supreme Court has spoken clearly. There can be no outright ban on such a procedure.” Judge Yeakel continued, “This court will not speculate on whether the Supreme Court included a silent ‘except-in-a-national-emergency clause’ in its previous writings on the issue. Only the Supreme Court may restrict the breadth of its rulings.”

 

The very next day, following a request by Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit halted the district court’s decision, effectively reinstituting the ban on abortions in Texas. According to news reports, women in Texas have already been turned away when seeking an abortion because of the directive.

 

In the amicus brief, the coalition argues that reproductive health care is an “essential medical service” that should be available to women, despite the ongoing public health emergency and that Texas’s “prohibition blocks the exercise of a woman’s constitutional right to access abortion.” Although Texas claims that its abortion ban is needed to conserve limited personal protective equipment (PPE), “most pre-viability abortions do not use PPE or hospital services, and thus restricting such abortions does not appreciably preserve those resources.”

 

The coalition goes on to argue, at a time when the entire U.S. population is being asked to limit travel, any restriction on abortions could force “women to seek those services in other States, thereby increasing the potential for transmission of COVID-19 and for burdening petitioners’ hospital facilities and PPE supplies.” Further, the coalition contends that residents of Virginia and other amici states may currently may be in Texas without a way to return home, but they still have a right to time-sensitive reproductive care.

 

The coalition concludes by arguing that “a public health crisis should not be used as an excuse to deny women ‘an ability to control their reproductive lives,’” and that any ban on abortion — even for a matter of weeks — can end up restricting a woman’s “constitutional right to choose to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability,” especially in states, like Texas, which already have limited timetables in place for electing to have an abortion.

 

Joining Attorney General Herring in filing this amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District Of Columbia.

 

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