Planned Parenthood victory: Supreme Court nixes rulings that upheld Texas pandemic abortion ban

The ban already ended over the summer

In a victory for Planned Parenthood, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday overturned two lower court rulings that had sided with GOP officials in banning most abortion procedures in Texas in an effort to conserve medical resources at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The ban was issued as part of an executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott in March 2020 that paused all non-urgent medical procedures and sought to conserve medical equipment after warnings from health care professionals that patients who are sick with the COVID-19 might overwhelm hospital capacity and deplete supplies, such as personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses.

The nation’s highest court struck down two rulings by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that had sided with Texas GOP officials, including state Attorney General Ken Paxton, who previously argued that it was "unconscionable" for abortion providers to withhold PPE in favor of a procedure that they refer to as a "choice."

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"The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit with instructions to dismiss the case as moot," the Supreme Court ruling issued Monday states.

Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups had filed a lawsuit to stop the ban, arguing it was issued in bad faith, as abortion is time-sensitive and a part of essential health care. Many Texans left the state during the onset of the pandemic to end their pregnancies elsewhere, The Texas Tribune reported.

Though the order ended over the summer, and abortions have since been allowed to resume in Texas, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Lawyering Project said it is still "important we took this procedural step to make sure bad case law was wiped from the books."

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From their perspective, the governor’s order was "a transparent attempt to chip away at access to reproductive health care by exploiting a public health crisis," a statement provided to Fox News said. 

"The executive order put Texans in need of essential, time-sensitive abortion care at greater risk: pushing patients to remain pregnant for political reasons, and forcing those able to do so to travel out of state during a pandemic just to access health care," their statement continued. "We cannot allow Abbott’s extreme actions to taint future fights. For now, abortion providers are back to work, caring for patients who need access to this essential health care."

In a tweet the day before the Supreme Court ruling, Abbott announced that Texas will fully end taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood by Feb. 3, adding that: "Innocent lives will be saved."

He shared a link to a story published by Corridor News that outlined how the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in November sided with Texas state officials who aimed to ban taxpayer funding of the abortion provider "after videos were released by the Center for Medical Progress alleging the group was engaged in the sale or donation of aborted baby parts."

Fox News' Tyler Olson contributed to this report.