Court allows abortion services to continue in Tennessee during pandemic

Court allows abortion services to continue in Tennessee during pandemic
Court allows abortion services to continue in Tennessee during pandemic (Source: WVLT)

KNOXVILLE, N.C. (WVLT) - The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a preliminary injunction granted by a lower court, allowing abortion clinics in Tennessee to continue providing abortion procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The court's decision came after Governor Bill Lee issued a state order on April 8 banning all abortion services other than medication abortions.

Tennessee is one of eight states that have limited abortion access during the pandemic.

In its decision, the court wrote, “The State has never, at any point in this litigation, attempted to support its policy choice with expert or medical evidence. This is unsurprising because, as far as we can tell, every serious medical or public health organization to have considered the issue has said the opposite.”

“This ruling means women in Tennessee can continue to access time-sensitive, essential abortion care. Everybody’s situation is different and people should be able to make their own decisions about continuing or ending a pregnancy in conversation with their loved ones and health providers, without government interference,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, in the release. “We need our politicians to be working to protect the health and safety of our community, not using the pandemic to attempt to ban abortion. We hope with today’s ruling that the governor hears that message loud and clear.”

“We applaud the Sixth Circuit for ensuring that Tennesseans have access to essential abortion care during the current pandemic,” said Corinne Rovetti APRN-BC, co-director of the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health. “Undermining patients’ urgent health care needs during a public health crisis exposes Tennessee politicians’ extreme agenda. Thankfully, the Sixth Circuit did not buy the state’s thinly veiled ploy.”

“I am so grateful the court has reaffirmed that abortion is essential health care. Abortion is time-sensitive and our patients deserve access to the care they need when they need it,” said Ashley Coffield, president, and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi. “Rather than wasting valuable time and resources pushing a political agenda, Gov. Lee should have been focused on expanding access to health care for all Tennesseans.”

Tennessee also bans the use of telehealth for medication abortion.

The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Tennessee, pro-bono counsel Kramer Levin, and local counsel Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC. Plaintiffs in the case are CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, Bristol Regional Women’s Center, and Dr. Kimberly Looney.

Case Timeline: April 8: Gov. Bill Lee issued a state order on limiting “non-emergency” health care procedures. That order banned all abortion services other than medication abortions

April 13: Lawsuit filed to challenge the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, pro bono counsel Kramer Levin, and local counsel Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC.

April 17: Federal district court in Tennessee granted a preliminary injunction, allowing clinics to resume abortion procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state appealed the decision to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals

April 24: 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s preliminary injunction, allowing time-sensitive abortion procedures to continue in the state.

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