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Alabama appeals abortion ruling during COVID-19 outbreak

By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama on Thursday asked an appellate court to allow it to limit abortions as part of a ban on elective medical procedures during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Attorney General Steve Marshall said the state is appealing to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to overturn an injunction issued last week by a federal judge against a state health order. Alabama argued in court filings that some abortions can be safely and legally postponed as the state tries to conserve medical equipment and fight the spread of the virus.

State lawyers argued the injunction health order “imposes only a temporary burden on abortion access by requiring providers to postpone procedures that, in their professional medical judgment, can safely be postponed.”

“Delay of a few weeks for public health reasons does not amount to a total denial,” the attorney general’s office wrote.
Similar legal fights over abortions during the pandemic are ongoing in Texas, Ohio and Oklahoma.

Alabama had ordered a postponement of medical procedures except in cases of a medical emergency or “to avoid serious harm from an underlying condition or disease, or necessary as part of a patient’s ongoing and active treatment.” Abortion clinics in Alabama filed a lawsuit after they said the state attorney general’s office refused to clarify that the clinics could continue to operate.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson last week issued a preliminary injunction sought by clinics.

The attorney general argued clinics are seeking “a special blanket exemption from the order” that is not put on other medical procedures.

“The state health order does not single out abortions or treat them differently from any other procedure. It simply requires abortion providers to follow the same regulations that apply to everyone else,” the attorney general said in a statement.

Randall C. Marshall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said the state attorney general “should be focused on protecting the health and safety of Alabamians, not using the pandemic as a way to limit access to abortion.”

“During this crisis, it is critical that Alabamians can continue to access the abortions they need to protect their health. The government response to the pandemic must be grounded in public health, not politics, because there is no pause on a pregnancy,” Randall Marshall said.

The dispute comes after the Alabama Legislature last year voted to try to outlaw all abortions by making it a felony to perform the procedure. Thompson blocked the abortion ban from taking effect.

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