Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday signed an order banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates from being imposed by any “entity in Texas,” his latest in a series of moves aimed at pushing back on pandemic-related restrictions and requirements imposed by the federal government and corporations.
According to the order, Abbott has barred businesses and groups in the Lone Star State from requiring proof of vaccination from anyone who has objected to getting the jab for “any reason of personal conscience.” The order also notes it is “subject to legislative action.”
Abbott noted that he has “issued a series of executive orders aimed at protecting the health and safety of Texans, ensuring uniformity throughout Texas,” while attempting to achieve “the least restrictive means of combatting the evolving threat to public health” throughout the pandemic.
“No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19,” the order says.
Abbott went on to recommend that any violators should be given the maximum fine that is permissible under the appropriate section of the Texas Government Code.
The governor also transmitted a message to the chief clerk of the Texas House and the secretary of the Senate to include the ban on the third special legislative session’s agenda, noting that he will revoke his order when similar legislation is passed.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced,” the governor said in a statement.
This latest order goes beyond one he issued in August in which he prohibited all governmental entities from requiring the vaccine regardless of the federal approval status.
Abbott’s order comes after President Joe Biden appeared to mandate last month that all private businesses with 100 or more workers must require them to either get the vaccine or be routinely tested for it.
His executive action comes as there are growing questions over whether the mandate is legitimate.
In a piece for The Federalist, executive editor Joy Pullmann notes that thus far, there has been no behind-the-scenes regulatory movement, indicating that there isn’t an actual order yet or even one that is forthcoming.
“So far, all we have is his press conference and other such made-for-media huff-puffing. No such rule even claiming to be legally binding has been issued yet,” she wrote last week.
“That’s why nearly two dozen Republican attorneys general who have publicly voiced their opposition to the clearly unconstitutional and illegal mandate haven’t yet filed suit against it,” she continued, saying she confirmed that with Indiana officials who have pushed back on the mandate.
“There is no mandate to haul into court. And that may be part of the plan,” Pullmann added, suggesting that Biden’s announcement was aimed at pushing businesses to implement mandates on their own, under threat of an order but without actually having to defend one in federal court.
That said, Arizona officials have actually filed a suit in federal court against the mandate, though the case has not yet been adjudicated.
As for Abbott, he issued his executive order amid a brewing primary battle ahead of a general election next year. One of his opponents, former U.S. Rep. Allen West, a retired U.S. Army infantry officer who is currently recovering from COVID-19, said of his experience this week he is even “more dedicated to fighting against vaccine mandates.”
“I can attest that, after this experience, I am even more dedicated to fighting against vaccine mandates. Instead of enriching the pockets of Big Pharma and corrupt bureaucrats and politicians, we should be advocating the monoclonal antibody infusion therapy,” he tweeted from a hospital on Sunday.