US Law Week

Alabama Wants Coronavirus Shutdown of Abortion Providers Revived

April 2, 2020, 1:18 PM

An Alabama emergency order that’s been interpreted to require abortion providers to temporarily cease business is a good faith attempt to protect scarce medical resources during the new coronavirus pandemic and should be allowed to take effect, Alabama told a federal district court.

The state asked the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama Wednesday to lift a March 30 temporary restraining order that blocked the policy’s enforcement and reinstate the emergency order.

The TRO issued by Judge Myron H. Thompson prohibits Alabama from shutting down abortion clinics until he can rule on a preliminary injunction sought by providers, who say the ban is unconstitutional.

There are three reasons for dissolving the TRO and denying the providers’ preliminary injunction motion, the state said in a brief supporting its motion to dissolve the TRO.

First, there already are several cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in Alabama. Those cases are expected to grow and strain already scarce health-care resources, the state said. Abortion providers will divert supplies needed to treat those patients, it said.

Second, the providers can’t establish the executive order will cause them irreparable harm because there’s no evidence delaying procedures until it expires on April 17 will mean any woman who wants an abortion won’t be able to have one, Alabama said.

And, third, the “critical need to protect the public health justifies” the executive order, the state said.

The TRO expires April 13.

The providers asked the court to block Alabama from using the executive order to stop abortion care on March 30. They accused state officials of exploiting the pandemic to reach a long-sought goal of banning abortion in the state.

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office represents the state. American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and Planned Parenthood Federation of America represent the providers.

Planned Parenthood has received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg Law is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg.

For additional legal resources, visit Bloomberg Law In Focus: Coronavirus (Bloomberg Law Subscription)

The case is Robinson v. Marshall, M.D. Ala., No. 19-cv-365, motion filed 4/1/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Anne Pazanowski in Washington at mpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

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