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Appeals court affirms Oklahoma abortions must continue during COVID-19 panic

A three-judge panel rejected an appeal after a Trump appointee refused to suspend abortions during the pandemic.
Tue Apr 14, 2020 - 4:14 pm EST
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April 14, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Oklahoma officials may not apply the state’s emergency suspension of non-essential medical services to elective abortions during the coronavirus crisis, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals effectively ruled Monday. 

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have advised healthcare facilities to reschedule non-urgent appointments and elective procedures, both to limit the spread of the coronavirus and to free up time and resources to focus on infected patients. In response, many states have temporarily ordered health providers to comply, some explicitly clarifying that abortions will be held to the same standard.

Last week, Judge Charles B. Goodwin, an appointee of President Donald Trump, blocked Oklahoma from applying its emergency suspension to elective abortions, whether chemical or surgical. He ruled that the state had “imposed an ‘undue burden’ on abortion access – in imposing requirements that effectively deny a right of access to abortion.”

A three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit refused to hear an appeal of Goodwin’s ruling, The Oklahoman reported. They made their decision not on the merits of the case, but on the conclusion that the state cannot appeal a restraining order that is only temporary. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is expected to appeal the decision.

Even so, the abortion lobby is taking the development as a victory.

“It’s important that the appellate court rejected Oklahoma’s attempt to ban abortions in the state,” Center for Reproductive Rights CEO Nancy Northup responded in a statement. “It’s time for Oklahoma and other states to stop exploiting the pandemic to shutdown clinics. Oklahoma’s true motive has never been more apparent. This has nothing to do with the current pandemic – it’s purely politics.”

Pro-life medical professionals argue that allowing elective abortions to continue as normal puts business interests ahead of public health. 

The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) says that while “elective abortion is neither ‘essential’ nor ‘urgent,’” it “does consume critical resources such as masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment, and unnecessarily exposes patients and physicians to pathogens.”

“Elective abortion, both surgical and drug induced, also generates more patients to be seen in already overburdened emergency rooms,” AAPLOG continued. “Most abortion providers instruct women to go to an emergency room if they have any concerning symptoms after the abortion. Approximately five percent of women who undergo medication abortions will require evaluation in an emergency room, most commonly for hemorrhage. Surgical abortions can also result in hemorrhage. Emergency room personnel – who are already struggling to meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic – will be further strained to provide care to these women.”

The matter is likely to ultimately be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to soon take up the case of a similar abortion suspension in Texas. In the meantime, the fact that Goodwin was a Trump appointee highlights lingering questions about the Republican-controlled Senate’s vetting of judicial nominees, which has tended to prioritize speed and volume of confirmations over carefully evaluating jurists’ histories and philosophies.

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  abortion, charles goodwin, coronavirus, judicial activism, judicial nominees, oklahoma, tenth circuit court of appeals

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