A federal judge Sunday evening issued a preliminary injunction preventing the state of Alabama from banning abortions during the COVID-19 crisis.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Alabama on March 30 filed a court document arguing that Alabama is restricting access to abortions under the guise of protecting the public from COVID-19.
Both groups filed a supplemental complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama that argued Alabama state health officer Dr. Scott Harris’s March 27 public health order effectively banned abortions in Alabama, despite the court’s previous ruling blocking the state’s near-total ban on abortions.
Alabama state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris, has said that his order wasn’t intended to prevent access to abortions, but rather to slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting exposure during elective procedures.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in his written opinion filed Sunday evening, speaking of the state’s temporary ban on elective procedures, “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.”
“…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,” Thompson continued in his opinion.
Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, said in a statement Sunday that the ruling is a critical victory that ensures “that the government response to the pandemic is grounded in public health, not politics.”
“Politicians should be focused on protecting the health and safety of our community, not using the pandemic as a way to limit access to abortion,” Marshall said.
“This decision ensures that Alabamians can continue to access the abortions they need to protect their health during this crisis,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the ACLU 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.”
Dr. Yashica Robinson, an Alabama OB/GYN and plaintiff in the case, said in a statement that as health care providers, they hold the health and safety of their patients above all else.
“We must all do our part during this public health crisis, but this decision allows doctors who perform abortions, just like all other doctors, to exercise our judgment to ensure that essential, time sensitive health care can continue,” Robinson said.