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Federal judge temporarily blocks Oklahoma’s ban on abortion during COVID-19 pandemic
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Federal judge temporarily blocks Oklahoma’s ban on abortion during COVID-19 pandemic

A judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma issued a temporary restraining order Monday against the state’s ban on abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The request for a temporary restraining order was brought to the court by abortion rights advocates against Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt after he issued an executive order immediately banning all elective surgeries, including non-emergency abortions, until April 30 because of the current pandemic.

The abortion rights advocates argued in their requests that the ban was merely a ploy by Stitt to gradually establish an unconstitutional ban on abortion in Oklahoma. The governor, on the other hand, has maintained that the ban is temporary and necessary to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in Oklahoma.

The court ruled that the executive order placed an “unreasonable,” “arbitrary” and undue burden on a person’s right of access to abortion.

The court concluded that, as to its ban on abortion, the executive order could not stand because the laws of Oklahoma only permit nonemergency abortions if the person is not yet 20 weeks pregnant and because postponing all non-emergency abortions until April 30 would mean that pregnant women who would have reached the 20 weeks threshold by April 30 would be unable to get an abortion at all and that those who would not have reached the threshold by then and would have been eligible for a less invasive procedure now would have to get a more invasive one after April 30.

Consequently, the court reinstated medication abortions and also reinstated surgical abortions for women who would be beyond the 20 weeks threshold by the time the executive order is lifted.

Similar temporary restraining orders have been issued by federal judges in other states, including Ohio, Alabama and Texas.

For more on COVID-19, see our special coverage.