Organizations file lawsuit over Oklahoma’s decision to delay abortions

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – After Governor Kevin Stitt announced that abortion should be considered an elective surgery, several national organizations challenged the order in court.

On Tuesday, Gov. Kevin Stitt ordered that all non-essential businesses located in counties affected by COVID-19 to close.

Non-essential businesses are considered places with a ‘social gathering’ aspect, like bars, gyms, and massage parlors.

At the same time, Stitt issued a 14-day suspension of all elective surgeries, minor medical procedures and non-emergency dental procedures in order to protect the state’s supply of personal protective equipment for medical workers.

On Friday, Stitt clarified that any type of abortion services that are not considered a medical emergency or otherwise necessary to prevent serious health risks to the mother are included in the executive order.

“We must ensure that our health care professionals, first responders and medical facilities have all of the resources they need to combat COVID-19,” said Gov. Stitt. “I am committed to doing whatever necessary to protect those who are on the front lines fighting against this virus.”

The order postpones all elective surgeries and minor procedures until April 7.

On Monday, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Dechert LLP challenged the order.

“The state claims this order is meant to protect health care professionals and stop the spread of the virus, but forcing women to travel out of state for abortion care is completely contrary to that goal,” said Julie Burkhart, Founder and CEO of Trust Women. “Like many of us, our patients are taking care of kids while schools are closed, and some have lost their jobs. Having to tell them that we can’t help them, that the state has tied our hands, is heart-wrenching.”

“Abortion is an essential and time-sensitive medical procedure — and it must remain accessible, no matter what,” said Brandon Hill, PhD, president and CEO of Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “In a time when officials should focus on science and data to stem the tide of a public health crisis, it is unconscionable to take any action that would delay or deny access to safe, legal abortion. Emergency orders during a pandemic should advance the health and safety of Oklahomans, not try to score political points by using a national crisis to deny critical health care.”

The lawsuit argues that Oklahoma’s order effectively bans abortion in Oklahoma, violating Roe V. Wade and nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent. It also argues that forcing women to travel out of state for abortion care, or to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term and give birth, will increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 and undermine the state’s goal of preserving medical resources.

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