ACLU sues on behalf of Alabama abortion clinics amid COVID-19 outbreak

Alabama abortion providers, including Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery, sued to stop...
Alabama abortion providers, including Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery, sued to stop the law from going into effect next month.(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Updated: Mar. 30, 2020 at 3:34 PM EDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging a state health ordered issued Friday that forces dental, medical and surgical procedures to be postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of Dr. Yashica Robinson and three independent abortion clinics: the Alabama Women’s Center, Reproductive Health Services and West Alabama Women’s Center.

The order, which is in effect until April 17 at 5 p.m., includes exceptions for treatment of an “emergency medical condition” or to “avoid serious harm from an underlying condition.”

The plaintiffs feel the language in the order permits pre-viability abortions.

However, according to the lawsuit, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall hasn’t provided guidance on how the health order should be interpreted.

“However, as of [Sunday] afternoon, the Attorney General refused to provide any further guidance as to how it is interpreting the scope of the Order other than to make plain that in its view some—and perhaps most—abortions are not permitted. The Attorney General did make clear, however, that violation of the March 27 Order carries criminal penalties," the lawsuit states.

Marshall released a statement Monday saying the order applies to all healthcare facilities, and it will be “enforced uniformly against all violators.”

“At a time when all Americans are making significant sacrifices to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it is remarkable that one class of providers demands to be treated differently than all others," Marshall said. “Abortion clinics want an exemption, yet they are by no means exempt from the known risks of spreading the virus in crowded waiting rooms, depleting scarce personal protective equipment that should be reserved for those treating the virus, and transferring patients with complications to already overburdened hospitals."

[Judges slow abortion bans in Texas, Ohio during pandemic]

According to the lawsuit, abortions scheduled for Monday were canceled and more than 20 abortions scheduled for Tuesday will be canceled unless the court intervenes.

The ACLU argues the state is “using the guise of the COVID-19 crisis” to prevent people from having an abortion.

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