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Attorney General of Virginia

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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING CONTINUES FIGHT TO PROTECT WOMEN’S REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

~ Herring joins coalition of 19 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief against Oklahoma’s unconstitutional ban on essential reproductive healthcare ~

RICHMOND (April 10, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a multistate coalition of 19 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief fighting to preserve access to reproductive healthcare for women across Oklahoma. Last month, Oklahoma banned almost all abortions in the state, using the COVID19 public health crisis as an excuse, leading two reproductive health clinics and a physician in Oklahoma to challenge the state’s directive. The coalition filed the brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit supporting the plaintiffs in South Wind Women’s Center LLC v. Stitt.

 

“Every woman deserves the right to make her own choices about her body and her reproductive health without the government involving itself,” said Attorney General Herring. “Lawmakers and the Governor in Oklahoma should be putting their energy into preventing the spread of COVID19 instead of using this public health crisis as an excuse to pass policies that are based on ideology not science.”

 

On March 24, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt issued an Executive Order postponing all elective surgeries and minor medical procedures in the State of Oklahoma. Three days later, Governor Stitt’s office confirmed that “any type of abortion services…which are not a medical emergency…or otherwise necessary to prevent serious health risks” to the woman would be included in the executive order. The governor’s office even went so far as to compare an abortion to a “routine” dental procedure. This order came just days after the Oklahoma governor posted on social media about eating out with his family in a “packed” Oklahoma establishment, and after his office encouraged Oklahomans to do the same.

 

Following Governor Stitt’s Executive Order, several reproductive health care providers, including the South Wind Women’s Center, the Comprehensive Health Care of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, and Dr. Larry Burns, filed a lawsuit challenging the executive order in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Charles Goodwin issued a temporary restraining order halting portions of the Oklahoma abortion ban on the grounds that banning such care was “oppressive” and “unreasonable,” and would cause “irreparable harm” to women unable to obtain abortions in the state. Following that ruling, the State of Oklahoma asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to set aside the lower court’s decision and reinstate the ban. 

 

Today, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues filed an amicus brief opposing Oklahoma’s request for a stay of the temporary restraining order, stressing that a ban on medication abortions (an abortion brought on by taking two prescription drugs) or on other abortions for patients who would otherwise permanently lose their right to lawfully obtain an abortion in Oklahoma infringes on a woman’s constitutional rights. The coalition explains that the “characterization of the ban as prohibiting only ‘elective’ procedures fails to recognize how the time-sensitive nature of abortion care distinguishes that care from services that can be deferred without patient harm during the current public health crisis.”

 

The coalition goes on to highlight that if the ban were to be reinstated, women in Oklahoma would be forced to make “risky and expensive” travel plans to cross state lines to obtain an abortion, a point not disputed by the State of Oklahoma. This is especially troublesome at a time when the entire U.S. population is being asked to limit travel to stop the spread of COVID-19.

 

Additionally, the coalition explains why a ban on abortion would not help the state preserve personal protective equipment (PPE), free up hospital beds, or prevent the spread of COVID-19 transmissions. The exact opposite is actually true, as medical abortions do not typically require any PPE and neither a medical abortion nor a procedural abortion require regular hospitalization.

 

Further, the coalition notes that residents of amici states may currently be in Oklahoma without a way to return home, but they still have a right to time-sensitive reproductive care.

 

The attorneys general conclude by stating that abortion “clinics in amici States have increased the use of telehealth” in an effort to provide women with the proper health care they want and need. Instead of limiting women’s access to abortions, Oklahoma should be joining the call to increase access to telehealth medicine so that woman who choose to have an abortion don’t have to fear going out and contracting COVID-19 during this public health crisis.

 

Attorney General Herring filed a similar amicus brief last week in a lawsuit brought against Texas in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott for instituting a similar abortion ban, again using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse.

 

Medical professionals, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, recently denounced the abortion bans being imposed by multiple states in light of the spread of COVID-19, highlighting that delays in providing time-sensitive reproductive health care could “profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.”

 

Attorney General Herring joins the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia in filing today’s amicus brief.

 

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