On April 24, 2020, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a federal district court’s injunction, granted a week earlier, allowing procedural abortion care to continue in Tennessee. The Circuit Court’s decision rejected the state’s request to stay the district court’s emergency order and reaffirmed that the state’s attempt to ban abortion services did not have any basis in expert or medical evidence, but would instead hinder public health.
“Women in Tennessee can breathe a sigh of relief for now, knowing abortion procedures are available again in their home state,” said Northup. “Today’s ruling in Tennessee joins those from courts across the country that have blocked these abuses of emergency powers. Women cannot wait until the pandemic is over to access abortion care, and we will continue fighting to make sure they can.”
The district court decision was in response to a lawsuit filed April 14 on behalf of Tennessee abortion providers by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU and the ACLU of Tennessee challenging a state order issued by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on April 8 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting “non-emergency” health care procedures. Under the order, patients were unable to receive procedural abortions, but were permitted to obtain medication abortions if less than 11 weeks pregnant—although the state bans telehealth for medication abortions.
When Federal District Court Judge Bernard Friedman granted the temporary injunction on April 17, he wrote, “Moreover, abortion is a time-sensitive procedure. Delaying a woman’s access to abortion even by a matter of days can result in her having to undergo a lengthier and more complex procedure that involves progressively greater health risks, or can result in her losing the right to obtain an abortion altogether. Therefore, plaintiffs have demonstrated that enforcement of EO-25 causes them irreparable harm.”