Five states face legal challenges over abortion bans

In a sweep of legal filings on Monday, a coalition of abortion rights advocates brought challenges in four states — Alabama, Iowa, Ohio and Oklahoma — over directives to temporarily ban the procedure amid the coronavirus outbreak. State officials claim the orders are intended to preserve much-needed medical resources, but abortion-rights activists say the orders are an “excuse to attack essential, time-sensitive medical procedures like abortion.”

The organizations, which include Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Reproductive Rights, ask district courts across the South and Midwest to block states from halting abortion services as part of directives to suspend “non-essential” medical procedures. 

Last week, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights also filed litigation against Texas for its temporary halt on all abortion services “not medically necessary to preserve the life or health” of the patient. Those in violation of the state’s order face “penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time.”

“We cannot let anti-abortion activists dictate public health policy. A global pandemic is not an excuse to attack essential, time-sensitive medical procedures like abortion,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “These political distractions cost valuable time and resources that our state and federal officials cannot afford to waste. Abortion is essential and patients who need this care cannot wait. This is what it’s come down to: court battles just so doctors and nurses can care for patients during a public health crisis. Anti-abortion activists have gone too far.”

Bethany McCorkle, a spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General, said in an email to CBS News that their office was “aware of the complaint and are consulting with our client.” Emails to the Attorneys General of Alabama, Iowa, and Oklahoma were not immediately returned.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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