What's banned in Texas

Texas Abortion Ban: "Women Will Die"

Getting an abortion is not easy in Texas under normal circumstances. The cost of the procedure is high and the number of clinics that perform it is low. But in the current coronavirus pandemic, almost all women are not allowed to abort.

Gloves and face masks should be saved

Since March 22nd, the start of strict distancing rules due to the corona crisis, abortions have been banned in Texas by order of Republican Governor Greg Abbott. That applies until he relaxes the restrictions and people can take to the streets again. Currently this should be the case on April 30th. But because the virus does not follow a schedule, the order could be extended - and women would be denied access to abortions for even longer.

The official reason behind the ban: An abortion is a "non-essential" medical measure. Doctors should save scarce face masks and gloves for treating corona patients and medical emergencies. Everything that is not absolutely necessary has to wait in the crisis - and that, according to Abbott, also includes abortions.

Normally, however, abortions are carried out in specially designated clinics and do not take up any hospital resources.

"No woman decides lightly"

A 36-year-old New Yorker who spoke to DW said no woman who terminated a pregnancy would choose it lightly. She herself had an abortion four years ago because she was sure that she did not want the child. She had health and marital problems.

The filmmaker wants to remain anonymous so that not everyone who enters her name into a search engine will be the first to see this story as the result. "I went to the clinic alone. A nurse held my hand during the procedure," she says. "I was in a lot of pain, but everyone there was incredibly empathetic." She has never regretted her decision.

She stressed that a ban on abortions would not mean that they would stop happening. Texans who cannot afford to travel to another state would instead find illegal and therefore more unsafe routes, according to the filmmaker. The current change in the law in Texas has one clear consequence: "Women will die."

"Politicians are taking advantage of the pandemic"

"It is wrong to cut off access to safe abortions during a pandemic," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of the Whole Woman's Health Alliance. This organization advocates the right of women to safe, medically supervised abortions and carries them out in their clinics. Together with other organizations, the Whole Woman's Health Alliance brought an action against the ban in Texas.

"Forcing someone to go through with a pregnancy against their will in times of such extreme uncertainty is cruel," Hagstrom Miller said in an email to DW. "Politicians are taking advantage of this global pandemic to achieve their anti-abortion goals. They should be ashamed."

After long back and forth between different courts, judges of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals surprisingly ruled on Monday evening this week that abortions that can end an early pregnancy by taking two pills must now be allowed again in Texas. However, abortions that require surgery are still prohibited.

"No Special Treatment" for Abortion Clinics

One group that advocates the prohibition of abortions in times of Corona - and always - is the Texas Alliance for Life. Its director, Joe Pojman, said in a statement Monday that clinics and other facilities that perform abortions should "not receive special treatment that exposes medical staff fighting COVID-19 and patients to unnecessary risk."

In addition to the abortion with medication, which is now allowed again, there is another exception in Texas: women whose pregnancy would have progressed more than 22 weeks at the likely end of the governor's quarantine order may also have an abortion beforehand. 22 weeks is the period after which it is forbidden to terminate a pregnancy even in a non-emergency state in Texas.

However, this only helps women who are already approaching the end of the second trimester of their pregnancy. According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, around 88 percent of abortions in the United States are performed within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Ready to go to the Supreme Court

The Whole Woman's Health Alliance is happy that at least some women now have access to safe abortions following the litigation. The organization even wanted to take the case to the United States Supreme Court, but after drug abortion was allowed, the Whole Woman's Health Alliance withdrew that move for the time being. Hagstrom Miller reiterated that, should it become necessary, she would be quite ready to take the matter to the Supreme Court.

"We are demanding that all abortions be allowed again," wrote Hagstrom Miller. "Abortion with medication must continue to be allowed and abortion interventions in clinics must be allowed again."