Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Groups Challenge Order to Postpone Elective Medical Procedures, Abortions

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2020 at 11:50 AM

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The Center for Reproductive Rights, along with two other organizations, is challenging an order by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee that essentially bans abortion procedures in the state.

Last week, in an executive order responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee moved to limit “non-emergency healthcare procedures” until at least the end of the month. The order does not specifically cite abortion services, but instead reads in part, “All healthcare professionals and healthcare facilities in the state of Tennessee shall postpone surgical and invasive procedures that are elective and non-urgent.”

According to the order, these procedures include those that can be delayed because they do not “provide life-sustaining treatment, to prevent death or risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function, or to prevent rapid deterioration or serious adverse consequences to a patient’s physical condition.” Read the full order below.

Patients who are less than 11 weeks pregnant will still be permitted to obtain medication abortions in the state.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Tennessee filed an emergency lawsuit Tuesday to challenge the order.

The lawsuit argues that the governor’s order effectively bans abortion in the sate, violating Roe v. Wade, as well as a women’s right to liberty and autonomy under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Additionally, the lawsuit argues that forcing women to travel out of state for abortion care or to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, will increase the risks of COVID-19 spread.

Hedy Weinberg, director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said the actions of the state government “must be driven by science and public health, not politics.”

“The COVID-19 crisis cannot be used to prevent women from obtaining abortions,” Weinberg said. “Abortion is time sensitive and essential, and is not an elective procedure. You cannot just press pause on a pregnancy. During pandemic, women must still have access to a full spectrum of reproductive health care, including abortion, to protect their health.”

Ashley Coffield, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, said “abortion cannot wait.”

Unlike some medical procedures, delays can make it impossible for patients to access safe and legal abortions, she said. Coffield also adds that this order will “undoubtedly disproportionately” impact vulnerable communities, such as communities of color, young people, those with low incomes, and the LGBTQ community.

“These folks are making difficult decisions about how to pay bills and care for their families during a pandemic — they should not be forced to continue a pregnancy against their will, too,” Coffield.

Rebecca Terrell, executive of CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, said that abortion is time sensitive: “Our patients cannot wait until this pandemic is over. They are panicking and many have no idea when or if they’ll be able to have an abortion. Patients are now being forced to travel out of state, which will only harm efforts to contain the spread of the virus. There is no sense in denying them abortion care here in their own communities.”

Read the full complaint below. 

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