Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton gives an update on how the state is handling coronavirus.
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A federal appeals court on Monday blocked the Oklahoma governor’s ban on abortion as part of his response to the coronavirus, upholding a lower court’s decision and clearing the way for the procedures to continue in the state.
A three-judge panel on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Denver unanimously ruled that abortions would continue in Oklahoma.
Last month, Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, issued an executive order postponing all “elective surgeries, minor medical procedures, and non-emergency dental procedures.”
The measure was meant to reserve hospital beds, personal protective equipment and other medical supplies for those on the front lines of the coronavirus public health crisis.
In this Feb. 3, 2020, file photo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt delivers his State of the State address in Oklahoma City. A federal appeals court upheld a lower-court order Monday, April 13, that overturned the governor's ban on abortions during the coronavirus outbreak emergency. (AP)
On March 27, his office released a statement clarifying that all abortions except for those that posed medical emergencies and were “otherwise necessary to prevent serious health risks to the unborn child’s mother” were included in the ban.
“We must ensure that our health care professionals, first responders and medical facilities have all of the resources they need to combat COVID-19,” Stitt said in a statement at the time. “I am committed to doing whatever necessary to protect those who are on the front lines fighting against this virus.”
On April 3, Stitt extended the scheduled expiration of the ban from April 7 until April 30.
U.S. District Judge Charles Goodwin, who was appointed by President Trump, issued a temporary restraining order on April 6, blocking the ban and allowing medical providers to continue to perform abortions in Oklahoma until April 20.
In an eight-page opinion Monday, the appeals court panel said it was letting stand the temporary restraining order issued by Goodwin in Oklahoma City because it caused the state no irreparable harm, according to the Associated Press.
“It’s time for Oklahoma and other states to stop exploiting the pandemic to shut down clinics,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “Oklahoma’s true motive has never been more apparent. This has nothing to do with the current pandemic — it’s purely politics.”
Governors across the country have issued executive orders halting nonessential medical surgeries to free up hospitals. States including Oklahoma, Alabama, Texas, Iowa and Ohio have said abortions should be included in those mandates. Those bans, including Oklahoma’s, were challenged in court by Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights and local lawyers in each state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.