A federal judge has ruled that Alabama cannot ban abortions during the coronavirus pandemic. District Judge Myron Thompson decided that the state must allow abortion providers to exercise “reasonable medical judgment” in deciding whether a procedure can wait until after the COVID-19 crisis.
Alabama, like many other states, ordered a halt on non-essential medical procedures until April 30 to conserve medical supplies and hospital beds and reduce the strain on healthcare personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the state refused to say whether abortion care could proceed under that order, abortion clinics sought an injunction to prevent an abortion ban.
On Sunday, Thompson granted that injunction, writing, “The defendants’ efforts to combat COVID-19 do not outweigh the lasting harm imposed by the denial of an individual’s right to terminate her pregnancy, by an undue burden or increase in risk on patients imposed by a delayed procedure, or by the cloud of unwarranted prosecution against providers.”
Reproductive rights advocates and clinics are fighting similar legal battles in several states, including Texas, Ohio, and Oklahoma. Just last week, a federal appeals court upheld Texas’ abortion ban, while a district judge blocked Oklahoma’s ban.
Clinics argue that banning abortion does not provide health benefits. Instead, it denies patients access to vital reproductive care and facilitates the spread of COVID-19 by forcing patients to travel to other states for abortions. “Preventing someone from getting an abortion doesn’t do anything to stop the COVID-19 virus, it just takes the decision whether to have a child out of their hands,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.
Sources: CBS News 4/12/20; The Guardian 4/13/20; Montgomery Advertiser 4/13/2