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A federal judge ruled Sunday that Alabama could not ban abortions as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued a preliminary injunction sought by clinics to prevent the state from forbidding abortions as part of a ban on elective medical procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thompson, who was appointed by President Carter, said abortion providers can decide whether a procedure can wait.
“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 said in his written opinion.
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In this May 17, 2019, file photo, abortion opponents kneel in prayer outside Reproductive Health Services, an abortion clinic in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Blake Paterson, File)
Alabama had ordered a postponement of medical procedures except in cases of a medical emergency or “to avoid serious harm from an underlying condition or disease, or necessary as part of a patient’s ongoing and active treatment,” according to The Associated Press.
Abortion clinics in Alabama said they sought the injunction after the state refused to clarify that the clinics could continue to operate.
On March 30, the Center for Reproductive Rights, along with its partners at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union and The Lawyering Project, filed lawsuits and motions on behalf of abortion clinics and providers in Alabama, Iowa and Ohio. That same day Alabama and Ohio issued temporary restraining orders clearing clinics to perform abortions, according to the center.
“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,” Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, told the AP.
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The Center for Reproductive Rights has begun similar legal battles in Texas and Oklahoma amid the coronavirus pandemic. On Sunday, the center asked the Supreme Court to allow medical abortions, which involve taking medication instead of surgery, to proceed in the state amid coronavirus restrictions on nonessential procedures.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.