Baptist Leaders Welcome Ruling in Support of Texas Order Calling Abortion Nonessential

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Southern Baptist leaders have commended a federal appeals court decision in support of a Texas order that includes abortion as a nonessential medical procedure suspended during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In an April 7 ruling, a divided panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a federal judge’s opinion that removed all abortions from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s order postponing nonessential procedures through April 21. In rejecting the arguments of abortion-rights advocates, the 2-1 majority said the order “regulates abortions evenhandedly” with all other medical procedures.

Texas and some other states have included abortions among non-imperative surgeries or procedures that are delayed during the pandemic to free medical supplies for hospitals and personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers have challenged such orders and, in some cases, refused to abide by them. Other states have exempted abortions from orders suspending nonessential procedures.

The Fifth Circuit Court “made the right decision,” Travis Wussow of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) told Baptist Press.

“The abortion industry has once again shown its disregard for human life, that even during a global pandemic, it places its profit motive before any other consideration,” said Wussow, the ERLC’s general counsel and vice president for public policy, in written remarks. “We are thankful their operations are halted for now. This moment demands that we work to save as many lives as possible.”

Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, said in a written statement:

“While our convention has from its beginning championed the sanctity of human life from birth to natural death, this decision is more than pro-life in its effect. Abortion providers sought to classify their grisly work as more essential than most medical procedures.

“In light of the need to conserve limited medical resources during a crisis, this decision supports ordinary prudence. I’m grateful for the court’s support of our state leadership as they prepare for the strain we expect on our healthcare facilities.”

In his March 22 order, Abbott required the postponement of “all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition of, or to preserve the life of, a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician.”

When Planned Parenthood centers and other abortion-rights organizations challenged Abbott’s action, a federal court described his order as “effectively banning all abortions before viability” and issued a temporary restraining order (TRO).

The Fifth Circuit Court temporarily stayed enforcement of the TRO March 31 before the three-judge panel rejected in its April 7 opinion the federal judge’s description of the order as an “outright ban.” The order “only delays certain nonessential abortions,” judge Kyle Duncan wrote for the majority. The order is temporary and includes “an emergency exception for the mother’s life and health,” he said.

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Source: Baptist Press