Judges Temporarily Halt Abortion Bans In Several States Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

by Julie Scagell
Pro-choice activists supporting legal access to abortion protest during a demonstration outside the ...

The abortion bans will be temporarily lifted while certain states fight it out in court

Several states have issued state-wide abortion bans deeming them as “non-essential surgeries” amid the coronavirus pandemic. Federal judges on Monday temporarily blocked these efforts giving Planned Parenthood, other abortion providers, and women a much-needed victory.

Clinics across the U.S. filed lawsuits to stop states from shutting their doors and judges in Texas, Alabama, and Ohio have agreed — for now. The Republican-controlled states included abortion as nonessential surgeries, saying they use personal protective equipment and beds that could otherwise be given to hospitals fighting the coronavirus pandemic — many of whom don’t have enough masks and other medical necessities that may put their health at risk. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall specifically said the state would not offer a “blanket exemption” to abortion clinics.

The Ohio order also deemed the mandates unconstitutional if it prevents abortions and instructed clinics to look on a case-by-case basis if an abortion can be delayed to maximize medical supplies. If it is deemed necessary, abortions should be considered medically necessary and performed.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said the “Supreme Court has spoken clearly” on a woman’s right to abortion after learning one abortion provider in Texas, Whole Woman’s Health, had canceled more than 150 appointments since the original order went into effect, Huffington Post reported. “Regarding a woman’s right to a pre-fetal-viability abortion, the Supreme Court has spoken clearly. There can be no outright ban on such a procedure,” said Yeakel wrote.

Lawsuits are being filed by Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and local lawyers from other states around the country who deemed abortion as not medically necessary. Judges in Iowa, Mississippi, and Oklahoma will soon issue rulings on these as well as governors in both state’s wish to limit the supply of PPE unless the procedure was necessary to “prevent serious health risks to the mother.”

“The State’s interest in immediate enforcement of the March 27 order — a broad mandate aimed primarily at preventing large social gatherings — against abortion providers does not, based on the current record, outweigh plaintiffs’ concerns,” Alabama District Court Judge Myron Thompson said.

Ohio District Court Judge Michael Barrett agreed, saying the state did not make a convincing argument that banning abortions would save enough masks and other supplies for medical workers fighting against the pandemic to outweigh the “irreparable harm” it would cause for women looking to terminate their pregnancies.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights cited in their lawsuits that these bans were in direct violation to Roe v. Wade. Said Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, after the Texas ruling was announced: “This ruling sends a message to other states: Using this pandemic to ban abortion access is unconstitutional.”