As more states move to temporarily ban surgical abortions using COVID-19 as an excuse, federal judges have begun to block them. In three separate rulings yesterday, federal judges told state leaders that categorizing abortion as a non-essential medical procedure and forcing abortion clinic closures was not OK.
The rulings came in response to lawsuits filed after authorities in Ohio, Texas, and elsewhere started declaring that temporary surgical abortion bans were necessary to free up resources for fighting the new coronavirus.
The Texas ruling, from U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel, temporarily suspends the state's order through April 13. In the interim, the court will consider whether to block the order for good (something the judge seems poised to do, going by what he wrote in this current ruling). "Regarding a woman's right to a pre-fetal-viability abortion, the Supreme Court has spoken clearly. There can be no outright ban on such a procedure," the decision states.
"This court will not speculate on whether the Supreme Court included a silent 'except-in-a-national-emergency clause' in its previous writings on the issue," writes Yeakel. "Only the Supreme Court may restrict the breadth of its rulings."
Ohio's ban has also been blocked for at least two weeks, per a Monday ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett. The judge wrote that the state hadn't made a compelling case that stopping surgical abortions would "result in any beneficial amount of net saving of PPE (personal protective equipment) in Ohio such that the net saving of PPE outweighs the harm of eliminating abortion."
And a surgical abortion ban in Alabama has been suspended until at least April 6, when U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson is scheduled to hear arguments.
(More on the constitutionality considerations, from Eugene Volokh, here.)
Authorities in Alabama, Ohio, and Texas aren't the only ones attempting to use a public health crisis to clamp down on reproductive freedom. Iowa, Mississippi, and Oklahoma have seen similar orders outlawing surgical abortion procedures.
Groups are already suing over the bans in Oklahoma and Iowa. "The state's singling out of abortion in this manner during the public health crisis is profoundly harmful to Iowa women, and can't be justified from a public health perspective," Rita Bettis Austen, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, leaders of more liberal states have been calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow remote prescribing of abortion pills.
"Netflix for 3-D guns." Home-printed gun blueprint distributor Cody Wilson is again putting his plans online.
This is the "third time he has released such files, but the first time he has abided by U.S. foreign export controls online, using what he said are digital verification tools to ensure legal file downloads," notes the Wall Street Journal. "Mr. Wilson said he believed his release of the files would be 'impervious' to legal challenge and would help normalize the distribution of such material for easy download in the future. Mr. Wilson is offering access to the files for an annual fee of $50, characterizing his service as 'Netflix for 3-D guns.'"
Authoritarianism goes viral. In response to COVID-19, Hungry is suspending elections and instituting a host of other draconian measures for an indefinite amount of time.
Hungarian Parliament passes bill that gives PM Orbán unlimited power & proclaims:
- State of emergency w/o time limit
- Rule by decree
- Parliament suspended
- No elections
- Spreading fake news + rumors: up to 5 yrs in prison
- Leaving quarantine: up to 8 yrs in prison#COVID19 pic.twitter.com/5ScZCbF4yv
— Balazs Csekö (@balazscseko) March 30, 2020
It's not the only one.
COVID-19 in the States
Arizona, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia all got new or expanded stay-at-home orders on Monday.
- Virginia's order is effective until June 10.
- Arizona's measure only lasts, for now, until April 30.
- D.C.and Maryland officials both announced potential fines and jail time for those who violate the order, though enforcement of such seems iffy.
Violating the D.C. order could lead to 90 days in jail and a $5,000 fine, Mayor Muriel Bowser said yesterday. Violating Maryland's order could carry a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
COVID-19 Behind Bars
- Texas prisoners are suing over unsanitary conditions:
— Keri Blakinger (@keribla) March 30, 2020
- New York City prosecutors are fighting to keep nonviolent offenders in what are rapidly becoming massive death traps:
In a letter earlier today to the Mayor, NYC's five DA's rejected calls for a broad release of Rikers' inmates, and urged the city to reassure the public that inmates would be adequately cared for. In this THREAD, Rikers Chief says he can't do that, because it's not true. https://t.co/sbSUMJZ1Gc
— David Menschel (@davidminpdx) March 31, 2020
- The ACLU of D.C. is suing for better treatment of vulnerable jail populations in the district.
- Albuquerque, New Mexico, police were called to a man's house for a welfare check and instead murdered him.
- "Had the Chinese authorities been open even three weeks sooner, a study by U.K's University of Southampton assessed, the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95 percent and the world may well have been spared a pandemic," notes Reason's Shikha Dalmia.
- Wired is launching a new series of oral histories of coronavirus patients and health care providers in their own words; first installment here.
- A much-hyped strike of Amazon warehouse workers only yielded around 15 to 50 participants.
- COVID-19 relief payments from the federal government will be going out in three weeks, the IRS said.
- Los Angeles won't close gun shops, after all.
- From New York Democratic Rep. Nydia Velazquez:
I have been diagnosed with presumed coronavirus infection. My symptoms are mild. I am isolating myself at my home and following the guidance of the Office of Attending Physician.
My full statement is below. pic.twitter.com/9TgPXoy9dN
— Rep. Nydia Velazquez (@NydiaVelazquez) March 30, 2020