While churches in the state remain closed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, a federal judge has ruled that Tennessee must allow abortion facilities to continue conducting elective abortions.
According to The Hill, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman blocked a statewide order to halt elective abortions as well as legitimate elective medical procedures.
“Delaying a woman’s access to abortion even by a matter of days can result in her having to undergo a lengthier and more complex procedure that involves progressively greater health risks, or can result in her losing the right to obtain an abortion altogether,” Friedman wrote.
Friedman, a Reagan appointee, also countered Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s argument for restricting abortions to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) and temper the spread of the virus.
“In terms of balancing the harm to others, plaintiffs argue convincingly that the irreparable harm they would suffer without injunctive relief, which includes violation of their constitutional rights, ‘vastly outweigh[s]’ any ‘temporary reduction of PPE’” the judge wrote.
The Hill reports:
State officials said the procedures would lead to the “unnecessary use” of PPE “that are in extremely short supply, especially N95 masks,” CNN reported court documents said.
Friedman ruled that the government did not show “any appreciable amount” of PPE would be saved by prohibiting abortion procedures.
The plaintiffs, including Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi and the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health, argued they have made efforts to reduce the use of PPE and to avoid using N95 masks. The judge ruled the plaintiffs showed an abortion used less PPE and less patient interaction than giving birth.
Slatery, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, and other officials filed a motion of appeal on Friday, Slatery spokeswoman Samantha Fisher told The Hill.
The lawsuit against the state was brought by the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Choices of Memphis, and the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health after Gov. Lee announced that his executive order restricting non-essential medical care includes abortions.
“This would be like any other non-essential procedure,” Gov. Lee said at the time. “It would be treated the same, and my expectation and belief and certainly my expectation is that no non-essential procedures would be performed in the state during the crisis and during this time we need all of those supplies to be used on the frontlines of protecting citizens.”
Tennessee Right to Life denounced the ruling in a statement on its website.
“Churches are closed and other legitimate healthcare services are barred in order to protect the public health,” said the pro-life organization. “However, surgical abortions which kill unborn children and harm women and families must be allowed according to Judge Friedman, even in the midst of a global pandemic.”
“The public should recognize how radical the pro-abortion movement is in that they put the profit of abortion above every other matter,” Right To Life declared, “including risking the lives of abortion workers, legitimate healthcare workers who need PPE and first responders.”
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