(REVISED 8.10.2020) This lawsuit challenges an Oklahoma order effectively banning abortion care in the state. The March 24 order, issued by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, requires all “elective” medical and surgical procedures be postponed. In a press release issued March 27, Governor Stitt singled out abortion care, claiming the order prohibited all abortions in the state.
“The state claims this order is meant to protect health care professionals and stop the spread of the virus, but forcing women to travel out of state for abortion care is completely contrary to that goal,” said Julie Burkhart, Founder and CEO of Trust Women. “Like many of us, our patients are taking care of kids while schools are closed, and some have lost their jobs. Having to tell them that we can’t help them, that the state has tied our hands, is heart-wrenching.”
Plaintiff(s): South Wind Women’s Center LLC, d/b/a Trust Women Oklahoma City, Larry A. Burns, D.O., and Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, Inc.
We filed our complaint on March 30 and our request for a temporary restraining order on March 31, asking a federal district court to block the State from enforcing an Oklahoma Executive Order and subsequent press release from the Governor regarding COVID-19 that prohibited any abortion except in the case of a medical emergency. The trial court granted our request for a partial temporary restraining order on April 6, blocking the State from banning medication abortions or procedural abortions that could not be delayed past the date the Executive Order was scheduled to expire. The State then filed a petition for writ of mandamus with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, asking the appellate court to lift the TRO; the Tenth Circuit denied the State’s request on April 13. On April 20, the district court granted a partial preliminary injunction and ordered that abortion access be fully restored in Oklahoma by April 24, in light of a new Executive Order scheduled to take effect that day governing healthcare clinics during COVID-19. The State filed an appeal and request for an emergency stay of the injunction with the Tenth Circuit, which the appellate court denied on April 27. The challenge to the initial Executive Order itself is now moot; we will continue filing briefs in the case at the appellate court, however, where the State has filed a request that the Tenth Circuit grant vacatur of the preliminary injunction issued by the district court.