Hours After Abortion Providers Sue Ohio, Judge Grants Emergency Relief for Patients Seeking Abortion

Ohio is One of Five States to Be Sued After Exploiting COVID-19 Pandemic to Ban Abortions

March 30, 2020 7:15 pm

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Hours after Ohio abortion providers — including Preterm, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, Women’s Med Group Professional Corporation, and Northeast Ohio Women’s Center — asked a federal court for relief, the court granted their request for a temporary restraining order today to allow abortion procedures to continue for the time being during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This means Ohioans can continue accessing essential and time-sensitive abortion care, for now. This decision comes after anti-abortion activists tried to weaponize the state’s COVID-19 pandemic response in an effort to block access to abortion. Ohio abortion providers — represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and local attorneys — went to court to protect patients’ access to abortion. Abortion providers in other states, including Alabama, Iowa, and Oklahoma also filed similar lawsuits today in order to protect abortion access during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier today, a judge in Texas issued a similar restraining order, granting patients in the state emergency relief and protecting their access to abortion for now.

While doctors and nurses in states everywhere work around the clock to care for patients suffering from COVID-19, anti-abortion activists inserted politics into what should be a personal medical decision. As a result, Ohio providers have had to delay appointments in the ensuing confusion.

Judge Michael Barrett, the second judge to block using COVID-19 orders to limit abortion access, wrote: “…enforcement of the Director’s Order as applied to surgical abortion procedures will result in an unconstitutional deprivation of Plaintiffs’ patients’ Fourteenth Amendment right to substantive due process because enforcement creates a substantial obstacle in the path of patients seeking pre-viability abortions, thus creating an undue burden on abortion access.”

Statement from Elizabeth Watson, staff attorney, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project:
“This is a crucial victory for Ohioans’ access to essential abortion care, and in the fight to ensure that the response to the COVID-19 crisis is grounded in public health, not politics. We will continue to fight until these attacks on abortion providers are struck down for good.”

Statement from Jessie Hill, cooperating attorney, ACLU of Ohio:
“Judge Barrett made the absolute correct decision to keep Ohio abortion clinics open so that they can provide time-sensitive, essential abortion care to patients. The ACLU of Ohio will always fight to ensure that abortion remains accessible and safe, through this public health crisis and afterwards.”

Statement of Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Let this swift ruling send a clear message to politicians and anti-abortion activists in other states: Exploiting a global pandemic to ban abortion is illegal. Anti-abortion activists have tried to exploit fear of the COVID-19 pandemic to push a dangerous political agenda. Enough is enough. It’s time to get to work and do what’s necessary to contain the COVID-19 virus and address urgent public health needs that threaten our communities. We must put the health care of our community before politics. Planned Parenthood will continue to fight tirelessly for the rights of our patients to seek out the essential health care they need.”

Statement from Iris Harvey and Kersha Deibel, presidents and CEOs of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio:
“Planned Parenthood knows our patients’ health care cannot wait. That’s why we took action quickly. Abortion is an essential, time-sensitive medical procedure. Today’s ruling is a victory no health care provider should have to fight for in the middle of a pandemic. Anti-abortion activists are creating dangerous distractions when we need public officials to be focusing on the crisis at hand. We are going back to work to care for patients who need us more than ever and we hope Ohio officials do the same. Our community’s future depends on it.”

Statement from Chrisse France, executive director, Preterm:
“A global pandemic is no time to be playing politics with health care, and we are relieved that the District Court has acknowledged that abortion is an essential and time-sensitive health care service. Everyone deserves to have access to safe, timely care and a delay of only a few weeks can make abortion completely inaccessible. Preterm remains committed to doing everything we can to keep our patients healthy and safe, ensuring they have access to the health care they need when they need it.”

Experts including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology agree that abortion is an essential, time-sensitive procedure. The groups note that delaying this care could “profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.” Delays or additional barriers to care can make it more difficult or even impossible for patients to access safe, legal abortion. For many people of color, who have always faced systemic barriers to health care and are more vulnerable to COVID-19, adding unnecessary restrictions on abortion access poses dangerous risks.

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