Iowa, Ohio Sued Over Abortion Bans During Coronavirus Crisis

State officials in Iowa and Ohio were hit with lawsuits on Monday over their decisions to ban abortion during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Both states recently deemed abortion a nonessential surgical procedure that must be deferred or canceled in order to preserve medical supplies for the pandemic.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and Ohio are asking district courts to immediately restore abortion access, arguing that it’s an essential, time-sensitive procedure that has been improperly categorized as elective.

A growing number of states largely governed by Republicans are using the coronavirus outbreak to crack down on abortion. In addition to Ohio and Iowa, Texas and Mississippi have ordered health care facilities to stop providing abortions.

“Patients presenting for time-sensitive care, including abortion care, need timely access to treatment, even during this pandemic,” said Katherine Ragsdale, an Episcopal priest and president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, in a statement. “Women deserve better than a craven exploitation of a health care crisis in furtherance of an anti-abortion agenda.” 

Leading medical experts, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology have urged state leaders to classify abortion as a time-sensitive, essential medical procedure that cannot be delayed.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) halted elective, non-essential surgeries, including surgical abortions, in an emergency proclamation issued last week. The lawsuit against Reynolds, filed by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Iowa, asks the court to block the proclamation as it applies to abortions.

In Ohio, Attorney General Dave Yost issued letters to at least three abortion clinics on March 20, ordering them to stop providing abortion care. The lawsuit against Yost, filed by abortion providers, the national and state branches of the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, calls for a temporary restraining order to stop the restriction from taking effect.

“Plaintiffs’ patients would be denied their right to access safe and legal previability abortion, in violation of nearly five decades of Supreme Court precedent that categorically prohibits states from banning abortion before viability, and is, therefore, unconstitutional,” the lawsuit says. “Some of these patients will be forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will and at risk to their health amidst a health system overburdened by responding to COVID-19,” the disease caused by the coronavirus.

An emergency lawsuit was filed in federal court last week to overturn a similar ban in Texas, where women are currently unable to access abortions at all. HuffPost spoke to one patient who was forced to drive 24 hours and cross multiple states to receive an abortion. 

“A global pandemic is not an excuse to attack essential, time-sensitive medical procedures like abortion,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, in a statement. “Anti-abortion politicians have gone too far.”

Are you trying to get an abortion during the coronavirus outbreak? We want to hear from you. Email reporter Melissa Jeltsen at [email protected]

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