Emergency lawsuit filed against Lee’s ban on abortions amid coronavirus pandemic

Reproductive rights advocates have filed an emergency lawsuit challenging Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order that included abortions among banned non-emergency health procedures to ensure medical equipment and resources were reserved for the coronavirus response.

The federal lawsuit was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“This would be like any other non-essential procedure,” Lee told reporters last month when asked about the abortion ban. “It would be treated the same, and my expectation and belief and certainly my expectation is that no non-essential procedures would be performed in the state during the crisis and during this time we need all of those supplies to be used on the frontlines of protecting citizens.”

Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office told the Associated Press at the time that he stands “ready to defend the actions of the executive branch in enforcing Executive Order 18.”

Lee has announced that his statewide measures regarding nonessential activity, including elective medical procedures, will be extended through the end of this month.

Here’s the full release from the groups challenging the abortion ban in court:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, a Tennessee order effectively banning abortion procedures in the state was challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. The April 8 order, issued by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, limits “non-emergency” health care procedures and bars people from getting a procedural abortion. Patients who are less than 11 weeks pregnant are still permitted to obtain medication abortions in the state.

Tennessee is not the first state to restrict abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU, and other allies have filed lawsuits in multiple states. In Texas, most abortions are currently prohibited, and providers have asked the Supreme Court to intervene on an emergency basis. Court decisions allowing abortion care to continue have occurred in Alabama, Ohio and Oklahoma.
Statement from Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee:

“While we must all do our part to protect our communities from the spread of COVID-19, the actions our state government takes must be driven by science and public health, not politics. The COVID-19 crisis cannot be used to prevent women from obtaining abortions. Abortion is time sensitive and essential, and is not an elective procedure. You cannot just press pause on a pregnancy. During this pandemic, women must still have access to a full spectrum of reproductive health care, including abortion, to protect their health.”

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

“We have filed this case to protect the constitutional rights of women in Tennessee who need access to essential, time-sensitive abortion care. All signs indicate that this crisis will not be over soon, and patients cannot wait until it is. Leading medical experts have been clear that COVID-19 responses should not ban abortion care.”

Statement from Ashley Coffield, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi:

“My heart goes out to everyone who is facing unexpected healthcare and economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including those seeking abortion. Abortion care cannot wait. Unlike some medical procedures, delays or additional barriers to care can make it impossible for patients to access safe, legal abortion. This will undoubtedly disproportionately impact people who are already vulnerable—black people and other communities of color, young people, the LGBTQ community, and those with low-incomes—just as we’re seeing it unfold now with COVID-19 infections, due to systemic disparities they face every day. These folks are making difficult decisions about how to pay their bills and care for their families during a pandemic—they should not be forced to continue a pregnancy against their will, too.”

Statement from Rebecca Terrell, Executive Director of CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health:

“It’s common sense that abortion is time sensitive. Our patients cannot wait until this pandemic is over. They are panicking and many have no idea when or if they’ll be able to have an abortion. Patients are now being forced to travel out of state, which will only harm efforts to contain the spread of the virus. There is no sense in denying them abortion care here in their own communities.”

Statement from Corinne Rovetti APRN-BC, co-director of the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health:

“While we healthcare providers take COVID-19 concerns seriously, doing everything known to reduce the spread of the virus, we are also committed to ensuring that pregnant individuals during a worldwide pandemic can still access essential, time-sensitive and safe abortion care. Under normal circumstances, it is disturbing to find oneself unexpectedly pregnant when one is not financially, emotionally or otherwise ready to parent. These concerns become intensely magnified during the current pandemic crisis when people are already dealing with social and economic severity. Delaying access to care is not an option. Pregnant people need to be able to rely on care by compassionate and competent medical providers immediately.”

The lawsuit filed today argues that Tennessee’s order effectively bans abortion in the state for many women, violating Roe v. Wade and nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent protecting a woman’s right to liberty and autonomy under the Fourteenth Amendment. The lawsuit also argues that forcing women to travel out of state for abortion care, or to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term and give birth, will increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 and undermine the state’s asserted goal of preserving medical resources and limiting person-to-person encounters.

Leading medical organizations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association (AMA) have opposed these attempts to restrict abortion during the pandemic. Both groups filed an amicus brief in the case challenging Texas’s COVID-19 abortion ban, stating: “Indeed, the Governor’s order is likely to increase, rather than decrease, burdens on hospitals and use of PPE. At the same time, it will severely impair essential health care for women, and it will place doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals in an untenable position by criminalizing necessary medical care.”

Tennessee also bans the use of telehealth for medication abortion — a tool that could greatly expand access and reduce in-person contact. Other abortion restrictions in Tennessee include: a mandatory 48-hour waiting period (which includes a requirement that patients make an additional, medically unnecessary trip to the clinic to receive state-mandated information); limits on when state and public insurance can cover abortion services; and a requirement that minors obtain parental consent.

This lawsuit was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU, the ACLU of Tennessee and pro-bono counsel Kramer Levin. Plaintiffs in the case are CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, Adams & Boyle P.C, and Dr. Kimberly Looney.

The full complaint is available here: https://www.aclu-tn.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/230-01-Supplemental-Complaint.pdf

47 Responses to Emergency lawsuit filed against Lee’s ban on abortions amid coronavirus pandemic

  • Donna Locke says:

    Thank you to the people and orgs filing this lawsuit. Bill Lee is a patriarchal menace.

  • Charles Sumner says:

    Pregnancy cannot be put on pause because of a governor who disapproves of abortion.

  • Norma Shirk says:

    So guns are “essential” but women’s health isn’t? It’s time to get more women elected at the state and federal levels and get rid of the dinosaurs screwing up our country by trying to refight the social battles they lost in the 1980’s. Women’s issues need to be treated with respect and dignity.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      So in the LaLa Land of the Normas of the world its the sex-determination system that determines not only gender but political judgments as well so those with of the same kind of sex chromosomes are naturally to be preferred over those who have two distinct sex chromosomes. That I guess is a “Women’s issue” and I assure you Norma it will continue to get the “respect and dignity” from those outside of LaLa Land that it so richly deserves.

  • MARLE says:

    Your right to snuff out a human life for your own convenience cannot be denied because of some Covid order by the Governor. Gee wiz what’s the matter with you conservatives.

    • John says:

      Are you defending Bill Lee now? What about medical emergencies where you can save one life – the mother’s – or none?

      I think conservatives see through Bill Lee. He’s following the orders of ALEC. He didn’t come up with this red meat for Tea Partiers on his own. And anyone who thinks he cares about the unborn is a fool.

      • MARLE says:

        Do you know what sarcasm is, John? Those who want the right to snuff out life (not kill b/c that has a legal definition) don’t want their “rights” to be abridged by a Governor’s order. I don’t share their belief that such a right should exist and I don’t understand how convenience Ever trumps life. Then again I don’t pull the wings off of butterflies just b/c I have a Supreme Court designated “right” to do so.

      • James White says:

        ALEC, that explains a lot, ALEC hates Liberty. Thanks John for the heads up.

      • Donna Locke says:

        Respecting the right to control one’s own body without interference from others, especially the government, is as truly conservative as one can be.

        • Eddie White says:

          Protecting the life of the unborn.supersedes the right of a person to take the life of another for “the health of the mother”. If that is not conservative, then find one liberal who agrees with my statement.

          • Donna Locke says:

            You do not have a right to force another person to risk injury and death. Pregnancy and childbirth are damaging and risky in every instance.

            The principles inherent are those of basic rights, without which a female has no freedom at all.

            Control over one’s own body. Basic.

      • Donna Locke says:

        John, Bill Lee is on a “mission from God.” No one else’s mission or purpose matters. Only his delusions and illusions.

        I’ve been rereading Bart Ehrman’s books lately. I highly recommend them. Ehrman is a biblical scholar who went from being Christian to agnostic after much thought and research on the earliest known manuscripts of the New Testament, which scribes over the centuries significantly altered (as documented by many scholars), including by changing text and inserting their patriarchal views and ugly opinions of women and girls.


  • James White says:

    Conservative are against abortion and Dictator Lee’s unconstitutional orders.

  • Stuart I. Anderson says:

    It’s so hared to decide, which Supreme Court decision was most destructive and costly to this nation. Was it the one that mandated forced busing throughout the nation that accelerated Caucasian flight from our big cities and the collapse of its government schools or was it Roe v. Wade that conjured up a constitutional “right” to an abortion that has led to decades of legal wrangling costing tens of millions of taxpayer dollars? There’s little left to save re: big city government schools, but the day can’t come to soon before the Supreme Court finally overturns Roe which will stop this waste of taxpayer’s dollars?

  • Eddie White says:

    Don’t think Roe vs Wade will be overturned. At least 1 justice short on the Supreme Court. With the likelihood that the Democrats will regain the White House in November, there will be no more conservative justices coming.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Come on Eddie! The American people are not going to elect a doddering, corrupt old fool like Biden President of the United States. Trump is bad enough!

      • David Collins says:

        But Stuart, at least Biden has a track record. Trump did not and the one he has established for himself now would mandate that no REAL conservative could vote for him. He cannot be considered the “lesser of two evils” because anyone who compounds lie upon lie and denies reality like Trump does wins the “evil” category hands down!

        • Stuart I. Anderson says:

          Indeed David he does, a lifelong political hack elected to the Senate at the ripe old age of 29 in 1972 he spent his years being a shill for the credit card industry and a reliable liberal vote (Club For Growth – 0%) in all things when it really mattered. Today we find him as a man who in the heat of the campaign doesn’t know where he is and doesn’t forgets the names of his closest family members and that’s who you think conservatives should vote for rather than Trump? Well David, at least you haven’t let this Chinese virus business adversely effect your sense of humor.

  • Eddie White says:

    It has been a fun ride. It has been so refreshing to listen to a President who was not politically correct. We did not have to listen to the pro-choice and pro-gay agenda every day in every speech . We actually had a reduction in regulations and taxes( sorry you did not get one Marle). We have had a President who did not apologize for our country and strongly supported the military and law enforcement. However, the Democrats are uniting behind Biden with the strong desire to get rid of Trump. That will return us to the Obama era. While the Democrats unite, the so called conservatives will whittle away their time debating if Trump is really a conservative Republican. Evidently not conservative enough for some and way to politically incorrect for others. And that will give us a new president in November.

    • MARLE says:

      Did I EVER say I didn’t get a tax cut? Tax fairness is not about one individual. I do not have a “I got mine so what’s the problem” attitude.

      I objected to the PLAN being sold by Mnuchin and Trump as being “like the Reagan Tax cuts” when nothing could be further from the truth. And I disliked being told that the cuts would be offset by loophole closures which was a flat out lie. And I don’t like special groups, such as the self-employed, being given a 20% addition tax cut over and above the across the board rate cut (while keeping all the same deductions) simply because they own their very small 1-person business

      You folks really need to learn to read With Comprehension.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Eddie OF COURSE as a conservative I am going to vote for Trump. And OF COURSE Tennessee and its eleven electoral votes will go for Trump so neither candidate will seriously campaign here other than to raise money.

      That’s why I don’t like to get involved in this Presidential campaign and I rather turn my attention as to whether to support Timothy Hill (ACU-88%) or David Hawk (ACU-89%) in the First District Republican Primary this August. Now that’s important and we conservatives better get behind one or the other or we will be stuck with some No Reocrd Candidate towny again, just like we are with Phil Roe (Heritage – 70%).

  • Eddie White says:

    Unfortunately the Democrats control the House and will continue to control the House. The Republican representative from the 1st District will have little impact on what is going to happen in Washington.

    • MARLE says:

      He’s going up there to get a Heritage score for his next political career move. And having a Dem majority just means he can shine all the more as he casts votes that UP his score but are meaningless.

    • Stuart I. Anderson says:

      What it comes down to Eddie for each of us is to determine why we are in this game to begin with. For me, since the liberals have complete control of the Democratic Party, if we conservatives are to have any success we must gain complete control over the Republican Party. To that end, Marsha is more conservative than Corker, Burchett shows every sign of being more conservative than Duncan, John Rose is more conservative than Diane Black, and Mark Green is to the right of Marsha, Kustoff is sure more conservative than Fincher. WE’RE WINNING EDDIE!!!

      Finally, we are now ridding ourselves of Roe (Heritage-70%) and some day I pray the good citizens of Athens and Chattanooga will see fit to rid us of Fleischmann (Heritage-71%). I know, doing this one seat at a time is laborious work, but there’s no other way to get this done. Right now, it’s the First District seat that is up for grabs and we conservatives must do everything we can to continue our win streak by making sure that this seat will be occupied by a solid conservative, Hawk, Hill or even Crowe if necessary, come January 2021.

      • Eddie White says:

        I understand your reasoning Stuart, even though Republicans like Massie in Ky are not helping your cause. The policies for the next 4 years will be determined by the President and the House majority. The Republicans are headed for neither one. I will be happy if a conservative, not libertarian, wins the 1st district. But it will not change a President Biden administration.

        • Eddie White says:

          Stuart, I should have added Constitutionalist to Libertarians as people that you want to keep of the ballot. They are as dangerous to our Republic as the far left nuts.

          • Stuart I. Anderson says:

            First of all Eddie, I assume you don’t literally mean you want to keep anyone off the ballot because if you do you don’t believe in democracy and thus who is or who is not on a ballot becomes a moot point. Now assuming you believe in democracy and thus a free republic rather than an authoritarian republic, people who believe in a maximum amount of personal freedom and firm constraints on the inevitable tendency of those in control of the government to aggrandize power in themselves are pretty essential to the maintenance such a free republic. Libertarians and constitutionalists are people who have those beliefs and we need as many of them as we can get.

          • James White says:

            Oh yeah, can’t have Constitutionalists on the ballot, low and behold they may insist that we follow the constitution. ~yikes (sarcasm)

          • Eddie White says:

            I suppose it could be hard to keep them off the Republican primary ballot, but as you have opined in the DeBerry case, not impossible for the party to decide. What we need to do in the case of the primary is to educate the Republican voter of the distinct differences in a conservative and a libertarian/constitutionist. The difference in a Marsha Blackburn and a Massie. One who supports conservative principles, and still supports our President vs those who vote to send their country into economic depression costing millions their jobs and forcing thousands of small businesses into closure or bankruptcy. You know the type, damn the country for ideological purity.

      • James White says:

        Marsha B and Mark G. Conservative? Surely you jest.

        • Phil Lassiter says:

          They are conservative opportunists.

          • Stuart I. Anderson says:

            That’s the vision I have Phil. Move the center of gravity in the Republican Party decidedly to the right so if you want to have any opportunity for success as a Republican you best burnish your conservative record to its very shiniest point that you possibly can before you dare face the voters next election.

            You have no evidence that Marsha and Mark are anything other than sincere conservatives do you Phil? Nevertheless your suspicions are well taken and it’s up to both to continue to show us that they walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

          • James White says:

            what is conservative about giving US Taxpayers money to Russians to build and install solar panels for their home?

  • MARLE says:

    Some of these comments are so sad….”control you own body” as IF there is only one body to be considered in an abortion. I really do believe these people pull the wings off of butterflies just because they can.

    • Donna Locke says:

      Don’t preach to me or attempt your usual condescension. I have children. And almost died of pre-eclampsia with the first one. I know what can happen. No one is forcing you or anyone in this country to have an abortion you don’t want.

  • Eddie White says:

    I agree with you Marle…this what I said earlier, I am going to miss Trump and Pence. Back to a very loud pro-choice President…

    • MARLE says:

      It’s not just very loud pro-choice presidents. It’s the Pull-the-wings-off-butterflies crowd who keep putting forth justifications for abortions that are Way down the list of reasons given by women seeking abortions.

      Reasons cited (by abortion patients themselves) are by an Overwhelmingly multiple, Socio-economic and have proportionally little to do with physical health concerns. “Timing”, Finances, partner issues, birth control, interference with future opportunities are, by a multiple of 5X ,the top reasons cited.

      • Donna Locke says:

        So what? It is not your life or your decision to make. Why such a need to control and run other people’s lives, whose situation is none of your business?

        We will not be going backward. Girls and women will not return to the bondages of the past. The chains are broken. The religionists and others so ticked that they can’t keep others in a corral will continue to be frustrated as the world flies away from them.

  • MARLE says:

    Have the last word, Donna. L.W. Donna.

    • Donna Locke says:

      You seem to be describing yourself, aren’t you? You simply want to insult the commenters here without a response. Just admit it. You can’t debate the ideas presented, so you insult. I’ll wait for the evidence of the wingless butterflies you say I have.

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