Judges Block States From Banning Abortions Amid COVID-19 Crisis

By Shani Saxon Mar 31, 2020

On March 30, federal judges ruled to temporarily stop Texas, Alabama and Ohio from banning abortions during the Coronavirus pandemic, Time reports. Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Center for Reproductive Rights and local lawyers filed lawsuits against the Republican-controlled states when it was announced last week that officials deemed abortion a “nonessential” medical procedure that would be temporarily blocked during the global health crisis.

Reports Time:

…The [Ohio] ruling instructed clinics to determine on a case-by-case basis if an abortion can be delayed to maximize resources —such as preserving personal protective equipment—needed to fight the coronavirus. If the abortion is deemed necessary and can’t be delayed, it’s declared legally essential.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said in his Monday ruling in Texas that the “Supreme Court has spoken clearly” on a person’s right to abortion, according to Time. “There can be no outright ban on such a procedure,” Yeakel wrote in his decision. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the state would appeal the court’s order. 

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson on Monday evening ruled against Alabama’s temporary ban on abortions, Time reports. His ruling is effective until April 13, at which point he will hear additional arguments. According to the news outlet, 

Thompson wrote the state’s concerns about conserving medical equipment during the pandemic, does not “outweigh the serious, and, in some cases, permanent, harms imposed by the denial of an individual’s right to privacy.”

Alabama abortion clinics had said that without court action, they would be forced to cancel more than 20 abortions scheduled for Tuesday, including one patient who would have been pushed past the legal limit for abortion in the state.

“Preventing them from getting an abortion doesn’t do anything to stop the COVID-19 virus," said Randall Marshall, Executive Director of the ACLU of Alabama in a statement released to Time. "It just takes the decision whether to have a child out of their hands.”

A lack of access to abortion services and other necessary medical procedures creates an even more dire situation for people of color and those living in marginalized communities. As Marcela Howell, founder, president and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, told Colorlines on March 5, “We need abortion access, not just the legal right to an abortion—because when we can’t access the health care we need, we’re denied freedom, safety and autonomy in our bodies and lives."