Appeals Court Overturns Temporary Ban on Abortions in Oklahoma

April 14, 2020 Updated: April 14, 2020

A federal appeals court on April 13 upheld a lower court order that overturned Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s temporary ban on abortions in the state during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus outbreak.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday allows abortions to continue in Oklahoma, the ban issued by Stitt notwithstanding.

Stitt issued an executive order last month that mandated that “Oklahomans and medical providers in Oklahoma shall postpone elective surgeries, minor medical procedures, and non-emergency dental procedures until April 30,” to protect the state’s supply of personal protective equipment for medical workers.

Several days later, Stitt clarified that abortion services would also be affected by the order, saying that any type of abortion services which are not a medical emergency or otherwise necessary to prevent serious health risks to the unborn child’s mother are included in that executive order. On April 3, the governor extended the April 7 scheduled expiration of the ban until April 30.

However, the restrictions were immediately met with legal challenges from abortion providers in the state who argued that they would force women to travel out of state for abortions, or to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term and give birth, increasing the risk of spreading the CCP virus, negating Stitt’s goal of preserving the state’s medical resources.

In an eight-page opinion on Monday, the panel of judges said it was letting stand a temporary restraining order issued April 6 by U.S. District Judge Charles Goodwin in Oklahoma City because it caused the state no irreparable harm, since Goodwin’s order expires April 20.

Oklahoma is not the first state to attempt to classify abortions as non-essential procedures during the CCP virus pandemic. The Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU, and other organizations have filed lawsuits in multiple states. On Sunday, a district judge in Alabama ruled that abortions must be allowed to continue in the state, while a temporary restraining order has also been secured in Ohio.

In Texas, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday ruled that medical abortions will be allowed to continue in the state after officials attempted to ban the procedure amid the pandemic, the Texas Tribune reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.