Federal judge partially reinstates abortion access in Oklahoma

United States District Judge Charles Goodwin partially blocked a ban on abortions ordered by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt last month in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

April 7 (UPI) — A federal judge on Monday reinstituted abortions in Oklahoma on Monday after the state’s governor implemented a ban on all elective surgical procedures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

United States District Judge Charles Goodwin issued a temporary restraining order for Oklahoma abortion providers after ruling that Gov. Kevin Stitt’s ban would cause “irreparable harm” to women who are unable to get abortions.

“The Court concludes that while the current public health emergency allows the State of Oklahoma to impose some of the cited measures delaying abortion procedures, it has acted in an ‘unreasonable,’ ‘arbitrary’ and ‘oppressive’ way and imposed an ‘undue burden’ on abortion access imposing requirements that effectively deny a right of access to abortion,” wrote Goodwin.

Last month, Stitt issued an executive order suspending all “elective surgeries and minor medical procedures” until April 7 to preserve medical resources for combatting the global coronavirus pandemic and later clarified that the ban would include any type of abortion services which are not a medical emergency or “otherwise necessary to prevent serious health risks.”

Goodwin noted that a woman who was 16 weeks pregnant when Stitt issued the order on March 24 would not be 21 weeks pregnant when the order lifts and would not be able to get an abortion, as the state bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

His ruling would reinstate access to abortion for women who would lose their right to obtain an abortion on or before the date of expiration for the governor’s executive order.

“Absent travel to another state, the postponement directed by the executive order and press release would effectively eliminate the ability of persons in Oklahoma to get an abortion if they are 20 weeks pregnant before April 30, 2020,” wrote Goodwin.

The ruling would also allow medication abortion to resume in the state, as Goodwin says it requires less personnel and medical equipment than surgical abortion.


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