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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas, April 15, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that abortions may still be committed in Arkansas amid the COVID-19 pandemic, even though elective surgeries are banned.
District Judge Kristine G. Baker, who was nominated by President Barack Obama during his first term, prohibited the authorities from enforcing the state’s provisions “against any providers of surgical abortions in Arkansas to bar all surgical abortions.”
On April 3, the Arkansas Department of Health had issued a directive “on Elective Surgeries.”
“Procedures, testing, and office visits that can be safely postponed shall be rescheduled to an appropriate future date,” the directive stated. Exceptions to this rule were essentially only “a threat to the patient’s life,” as well as “a risk that the patient’s condition will rapidly deteriorate.”
A week later, on April 10, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge clarified that the April 3 directive included abortion centers.
“All medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortions, must be postponed until after this crisis has ended. Those who violate the Department of Health’s directive will be met with decisive action, and my office will forcefully defend the State officials involved in keeping Arkansans safe,” Rutledge said.
Not long after, on April 13, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced it was taking “emergency legal action … on behalf of Little Rock Family Planning Services and its patients to prevent the state from using the guise of the COVID-19 crisis to prevent people from obtaining abortion care.”
Within a day, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas had agreed with ACLU’s reasoning, arguing that the directive of the state Department of Health appears to “unconstitutionally restrict pre-viability abortions and, therefore, [is] facially unconstitutional.”
Arkansas is not the only state where federal courts have overturned the state governments’ directives banning elective surgeries, including abortions, as part of an effort to conserve scarce medical resources in the fight against the coronavirus.
On Monday, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals effectively ruled that Oklahoma officials may not apply the state’s emergency suspension of non-essential medical services to elective abortions during the coronavirus crisis.
Prior to that, the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma blocked Oklahoma from applying its emergency suspension to elective abortions, whether chemical or surgical. District Judge Charles B. Goodwin, who had been nominated by President Donald Trump, ruled that the state had “imposed an ‘undue burden’ on abortion access – in imposing requirements that effectively deny a right of access to abortion.”
In Alabama, a federal judge “issued a preliminary injunction preventing the state of Alabama from banning abortions during the COVID-19 crisis,” the Alabama Political Reporter wrote.
District Judge Myron Thompson argued that “for some group of women, a mandatory postponement will make a lawful abortion literally impossible. Under Alabama law, a woman’s window for seeking a lawful abortion is limited: abortion becomes illegal when the probable post fertilization age of the fetus is at least 20 weeks.”
He continued, saying “it is substantially likely that the medical restrictions, when interpreted to allow only those abortions necessary to protect the life and health of the mother, are unconstitutional.”
In Texas, medication abortions (the “abortion pill”) are possible again following federal appeals court ruling.
“Hundreds of abortions in Texas have been canceled since state officials barred the procedure, except when the woman’s health is at risk, as the novel coronavirus spreads,” reported The Texas Tribune. “The prohibition is meant to preserve personal protective equipment, like masks and gloves, that is in short supply nationwide and to free up bed space as hospitals prepare for a possible surge in COVID-19 patients.”
The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) as well as other groups representing over 30,000 pro-life doctors also pointed out that “[c]ontinuing to perform elective abortions during a pandemic is medically irresponsible.”
“Elective abortion,” the statement continued, “is neither ‘essential’ nor ‘urgent,’ but it does consume critical resources such as masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment, and unnecessarily exposes patients and physicians to pathogens.”