A federal three-judge appeals panel says a ban on abortions in Texas can remain in effect during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state's Republican governor and attorney general have said abortion should be treated as an elective procedure and suspended in an effort to preserve medical supplies for health care providers. Clinics in Texas have shut their doors, and patients seeking abortions have been turned away in recent days.
The ruling comes days after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a temporary order allowing the ban to stay in effect while litigation continues.
Reproductive rights groups have challenged abortion bans in several states, including Texas, that have been issued in response to the pandemic.
In a 2-1 decision, the panel of the New Orleans-based federal court said the Texas ban can remain in effect during the pandemic given "the escalating spread of COVID-19, and the state's critical interest in protecting the public health."
Medical groups, meanwhile, have accused Republican state leaders of politicizing the crisis, and have said abortion is an essential, time-sensitive procedure. Reproductive rights groups have vowed to continue fighting the ban, and the matter could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.