In a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in Austin, the providers argue the order passed Sunday by Abbott, an outspoken abortion opponent, violates Texans’ right to equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.
The state order demands healthcare facilities postpone all abortions, unless the mother's life is in danger, until April 21. A subsequent statement from the Paxton's office gave the order additional gravity: "Those who violate the governor’s order will be met with the full force of the law."
On a call with reporters, Planned Parenthood South Texas CEO Jeffrey Hons said providers asked Texas officials to clarify the order but got no response. That left no option but seeking relief from a federal judge. Planned Parenthood South Texas currently has 60 women awaiting abortion care.
"Abortion is time-sensitive health care," Hons said. "We can't wait any longer."
Hons said the delay poses threats both to women seeking abortions and to public safety. The longer procedures are delayed, the more likely someone seeking one will be forced to travel for them. Health officials have recommended people avoid unnecessary travel during the outbreak.
Under Texas' restrictive abortion rules, the number of clinics in the state has fallen from 40 in June 2013 to just 22, meaning many in small towns must travel for hours to reach a clinic.
"[There are] health risks, public health risks and additional burdens at a time where we're already asking so much of people to flatten the curve," Hons said.
"It's reprehensible and it's unacceptable."
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