Tennessee Abortion Clinics Call for Order to Continue Providing Care | WJHL
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) – Tennessee abortion providers have filed an emergency petition in federal court, seeking an order allowing them to continue serving women despite Governor Bill Lee’s executive order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Their lawyers argue in a motion filed Monday night that abortions should be exempted from the Republican governor’s order blocking non-emergency health care procedures.
Delaying abortions “will place an extreme burden” on women by forcing them to travel long distances out of state during the pandemic, or to wait weeks for an abortion, putting them at increased medical risk, they argued.
It also flies in the face of guidelines from the American Medical Association, which issued a statement “denouncing efforts to ‘prohibit or drastically limit women’s reproductive health care’ at this time,” according to court documents.
Lee spokesman Gillum Ferguson issued a statement saying the executive order is aimed at preserving life-saving personal protective equipment and “limiting close contact procedures which are dangerous during the COVID019 pandemic.” The Planned Parenthood trial is an unfortunate distraction as we work to ensure our healthcare community has access to essential supplies during the fight against COVID-19. “
Documents filed by the court challenge this idea, stating that a woman who remains pregnant will need more medical care, and therefore more personal protective equipment, than a woman who has an abortion.
“Antenatal care and delivery involves more patient-provider interactions, including antenatal visits, additional screening tests and, ultimately, hospital admission and labor and delivery,” including a potential cesarean, which is major abdominal surgery, ”the documents say.
Lawyers for the suppliers say they tried to resolve the issue without litigation, but were unable to.
Lee issued a first decree on non-essential medical services on March 23. Although the order specifically excluded “pregnancy-related visits and procedures” from the ban, a spokesperson for Lee said at the time that the governor’s “hope and expectation” was that abortions would not take place during the coronavirus crisis.
He issued a second order on April 8, before the expiration of the first order, which went much further, explicitly prohibiting until April 30 all procedures that were not necessary “to provide life-sustaining treatment, to to avoid death or the risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function, or to avoid rapid deterioration or serious adverse consequences on a patient’s physical condition. “
The ban applies to surgical abortions, but not to medical abortions, which are available to women who are less than 11 weeks pregnant, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the groups filing the complaint.
The new petition was filed in an ongoing lawsuit by abortion providers challenging a Tennessee law that requires women to attend an in-person counseling session at least 48 hours before an abortion. Both sides are awaiting a decision in the lawsuit. The claimants’ lawyers, as part of their emergency petition, also want the judge to issue a preliminary injunction preventing the state from enforcing the in-person counseling requirement.
A spokeswoman for the Tennessee attorney general’s office said they would file a response soon.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, which go away within two to three weeks. For some, especially the elderly and people with existing health problems, it can lead to more serious illness, including life-threatening pneumonia.