Federal Judge allows surgical abortions during COVID-19 pandemic

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday blocked Arkansas’ order preventing the state’s only surgical abortion clinic from performing the procedure during the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision came as health officials announced that at least 1,498 people in the state have been infected with the coronavirus, an increase over the 1,410 reported a day earlier. Two more people died because of the virus, bringing the state’s death toll to 32.

ABORTION ORDER BLOCKED

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted the temporary restraining order that Little Rock Family Planning requested against the state. Arkansas had ordered the facility to halt surgical abortions unless they’re needed to protect the life or health of the mother.

“The limited record supports the … allegation that enforcement of the (order) against LRFP will inflict serious physical, emotional, and psychological injuries on LRFP’s patients by forcing them to delay, or altogether forgo, access to abortion care,” Baker wrote.

The state accused the clinic of violating its order preventing elective surgeries that could be safely postponed. Other states have used similar orders to restrict abortions during the public health crisis.

“The state’s action had nothing to do with public health, and everything to do with politicians using the pandemic as an excuse to violate the constitution and further their extreme agenda,” said Holly Dickson, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which represented the clinic.

The clinic said 20 patients, who were not candidates for abortion-inducing medication, were scheduled for surgical abortions this week.

The attorney general’s office said she would take “immediate steps” to have the ruling reversed.

“Attorney General Rutledge is extremely disappointed in today’s decision to blatantly disregard good public health guidelines and temporarily halt the Health Department’s directive without allowing the State to be heard,” spokeswoman Amanda Priest said.

HUTCHINSON ON STATE LIMITS

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the decision on when to lift Arkansas’ restrictions will remain with the state, despite President Donald Trump’s assertion that he has “total” authority over the states.

The Family Council of Arkansas released a statement today regarding this order. You can read that below.

On Tuesday U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a temporary restraining order that prevents the State of Arkansas from restricting surgical abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Family Council President Jerry Cox issued a statement saying, “This is a bad ruling. It goes against good standards for public health. Why should abortion clinics be open when so many other clinics are closed?”

Cox said it is important for the state to restrict surgical abortions during the coronavirus outbreak. “Surgical abortions waste precious medical resources. We have ample evidence that women from neighboring states, including COVID-19 hotspots, are coming to Arkansas for abortions. Recreational visitors from out of state cannot come here to spend the night in a hotel or stay at a state park, but they can come here to get an abortion. That makes no sense.”

Cox said he believes the state will win this lawsuit. “The Fifth Circuit has let Texas restrict abortion procedures to protect public health during this pandemic. I am confident that the Eighth Circuit ultimately will let Arkansas do so as well.”

Family Council

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