Judge Strikes Down Alabama Attempt to Ban Abortions As Part of Coronavirus Restrictions

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson has ruled that the state of Alabama cannot ban abortions as part of its coronavirus restrictions. The state had tried to include abortions in its list of canceled elective medical procedures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Based on the current record, 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,” Thompson wrote in his opinion.

Alabama’s entered its initial state health order on March 19, and the plaintiff who sued the state was told by the Alabama Department of Public Health on March 20 that the department “ha[d] no plans to apply the order to the [abortion] clinics. But, as Thompson noted, on March 27, “the State Health Officer amended the restriction on medical procedures in the March 19 state health order, postponing ‘all dental, medical, or surgical procedures,’ with two exceptions: (a) those ‘necessary to treat an emergency medical condition’ and (b) those ‘necessary to avoid serious harm from an underlying condition or disease, or necessary as part of a patient’s ongoing and active treatment.'”

The ruling was praised by Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project.

“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,” Kolbi-Molinas said.