The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed an emergency lawsuit against the Governor of Texas and other state officials to ensure that patients can access essential, time-sensitive abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the lawsuit, the Center joins Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Lawyering Project in representing a group of Texas abortion providers.

Earlier this week, after Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring the 30-day postponement of all surgeries and procedures not deemed immediately medically necessary, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a press release singling out abortion providers and interpreting the order to include “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” As a result of the ensuing confusion created by the Attorney General’s statement, Texas providers have had to turn away dozens of patients and cancel hundreds of appointments, preventing patients from accessing essential care.

“It’s unconscionable that the Texas Attorney General is exploiting this pandemic to end abortion in the state,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Abortion care is time-sensitive and essential health care that has a profound impact on a person’s health and life, which is why it is protected as a constitutional right. Texas is abusing the state’s emergency powers and we are filing suit to stop it.”

The lawsuit claims that the executive order and the Attorney General’s interpretation of it are unconstitutional since they impose a de facto ban on abortion. Plaintiffs are seeking a temporary restraining order and ultimately a permanent injunction against the executive order and its interpretation. The lawsuit asserts, “By selectively burdening patients’ fundamental right to abortion without justification and singling abortion providers and their patients out for differential treatment from providers of other medical services and their patients, the Executive Order and corresponding Attorney General interpretation and the Emergency Rule, as enforced, violate Texans’ right to equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

According to medical experts including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, abortion is an essential, time-sensitive procedure, and delaying this care could “profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.”

The state of Texas has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country as well as one of the country’s highest rates of uninsured residents.