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Filings Come in Response to Politicians Who Have Exploited COVID-19 Pandemic to Try to Ban Access to Abortion for More Than 10 Million Women of Reproductive Age  

WASHINGTON — Today, abortion providers in Alabama, Iowa, Ohio, and Oklahoma — represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Center for Reproductive Rights, and local lawyers — filed litigation to stop anti-abortion politicians from trying to use the COVID-19 pandemic to block access to time-sensitive, essential abortion care. This follows a similar legal action last week in Texas after Gov. Greg Abbott shamelessly used the pandemic to eliminate abortion access, forcing clinics to turn away hundreds of patients, many of whom have no options, while others travel hundreds of miles across state lines during a public health emergency.

In the midst of a pandemic, anti-abortion activists and politicians have jumped to exploit the fear and the urgency of the COVID-19 response as an opportunity to block access to abortion, costing state officials valuable time and resources needed to respond to the public health crisis.

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

Right now, people are just trying to survive this crisis. Women are just trying to survive this crisis.  And politicians are trying to take away their health care and are exploiting the fear and urgency of this moment to push their political agenda to ban abortion. These are the same politicians who have been eroding the public health infrastructure for decades. It’s left many of these states fighting a pandemic with fewer hospitals, providers, and inadequate health insurance for people. Elected officials should be focused on responding to the crisis at hand. We should be working together to ensure everyone has access to care. Instead, politicians are wasting valuable time and resources to play a political game. As a result, more people will suffer. Women will suffer. The priority of all Planned Parenthood health centers is the health and safety of our patients, staff, and community, and ensuring people still have access to essential health care.

Statement from Jennifer Dalven, director, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project:

We must all do our part to protect our communities, but government actions must be driven by science and public health, not politics. The simple fact is that pregnant people don’t stop needing health care in a public health care crisis: they must either get abortion care or prenatal care and childbirth services.  Banning abortion doesn’t slow the transmission of the virus, it just forces people to stay pregnant — and have children — against their will.  So, it’s not surprising that the states that are now trying to use the COVID-19 crisis to stop people from getting abortion care are the same states that have passed laws banning abortion or used other sham laws to try to shut down abortion clinics.

Statement from Nancy Northup, President & CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

These emergency abortion bans are an abuse of power and part of an ongoing effort to use sham justifications to shut down clinics and make an end run around Roe v. Wade. These same states have tried to ban abortion access for years—no one should be fooled that this is warranted by the current crisis. We will use every legal means to ensure that abortion care remains available during this critical time.

Experts, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, agree that abortion is an essential, time-sensitive procedure that cannot be delayed. The groups note that delaying this care could “profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.” Delays or additional barriers to care can make it more difficult or even impossible for patients to access safe, legal abortion. For many people of color, who have always faced systemic barriers to health care, adding unnecessary restrictions on abortion access poses dangerous risks.

Last week, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the Lawyering Project filed suit against Texas Gov. Abbott’s administration to ensure that abortion remains accessible in Texas.

The plaintiff abortion providers across the country are represented by attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights, The Lawyering Project, and other national and local firms.

A copy of the emergency complaint filed in Alabama can be found here.

A copy of the emergency motion filed in Iowa can be found here.

A copy of the emergency motion filed in Ohio can be found here.

The complaint filed in Oklahoma will be available shortly, please email the media contacts above for a copy.

A copy of the emergency motion filed in Texas can be found here.

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.