The Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) have filed an emergency lawsuit to nullify Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s ban on abortion procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, Stitt issued an executive order temporarily halting elective surgeries, which he later specified includes all abortions not deemed “necessary to prevent serious health risks to the unborn child’s mother.”
Stitt, an extreme anti-choice Republican who believes life starts at conception, claims that the ban will free up hospital beds and personal protective equipment for COVID-19 care. The reproductive rights groups behind the lawsuit argue that Stitt is using the coronavirus as an excuse to unconstitutionally target abortion, with dangerous effects.
“A global pandemic is not an excuse to attack essential, time-sensitive medical procedures like abortion. Yet that’s exactly what anti-abortion politicians and activists are trying to do, instead of working together to ensure everyone has access to health care,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, the acting president and CEO of PPFA.
PPFA and the Center for Reproductive Rights argue that the ban is a “clear abuse of power” and violates the constitutional right to abortion care established by Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions. They also assert that the ban would actually facilitate the spread of COVID-19 by forcing patients to travel out of state for abortions and increasing hospital visits for those who now have to carry pregnancies to term.
Oklahoma is one of several states trying to use the COVID-19 pandemic to restrict abortion access. Abortion providers in Texas are suing Governor Greg Abbott over that state’s ban, and clinics in Ohio have continued operating despite the state attorney general’s recent attempt to shut them down. In their fight against these state bans, reproductive rights groups have emphasized that abortion is essential healthcare that cannot be delayed without catastrophic impacts for patients.
Sources: The City Sentinel 3/31/20; The Oklahoman 3/27/20, 3/31/20