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On April 27, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of abortion providers, denying Oklahoma's request to stay a lower court's ruling from the prior week that blocked the state's ban on abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision means that abortion clinics can continue providing care as the case continues.

In the lower court decision on April 20, a federal district judge granted a preliminary injunction allowing most abortion care to continue. That decision extended the relief granted by a temporary restraining order until the case concludes, and allowed all abortion care to resume on April 24.

The request for emergency relief came from the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America on behalf of Oklahoma abortion providers.

Northup stated, "For the past month, Governor Stitt has exploited this pandemic to try to ban abortion, but the courts have repeatedly ruled against him. In the wake of this latest ruling, it's past time for Oklahoma to respect the essential needs of women seeking abortion care. This attempt to ban abortion is an abuse of emergency powers. It has nothing to do with legitimate public health efforts to address the pandemic and everything to do with politics. There is no question that abortion care is time-sensitive and cannot be delayed."

Earlier in the case, on April 13, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed abortion care to continue in Oklahoma when it let stand a lower court's decision temporarily blocking Governor Kevin Stitt's ban on abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The appeals court denied the state's request to block a temporary restraining order issued by the federal district court on April 6. Oklahoma abortion providers then sought a preliminary injunction from the district court to continue to block the ban from taking effect until the case concludes.

The Center and its partners filed a challenge on March 30 to the Governor's executive order issued requiring all "elective" medical and surgical procedures be postponed, after the Governor singled out abortion care and claimed that the order prohibited all abortions in the state.

The state of Oklahoma "has acted in an 'unreasonable,' 'arbitrary,' and 'oppressive' way—and imposed an 'undue burden' on abortion access—in imposing requirements that effectively deny a right of access to abortion," wrote federal district Judge Charles Goodwin in granting a temporary restraining order against the Governor's order.

Timeline of Oklahoma Legal Actions

  • March 24: Governor Stitt issued an order to postpone all elective surgeries and minor medical procedures.

  • March 27: Governor Stitt declared that the order prohibits all abortions in the state, forcing all health centers to halt abortion services.

  • March 30: The Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation filed this lawsuit challenging the Governor's order.

  • April 6: District Court Judge Charles Goodwin granted a temporary restraining order allowing abortion care—specifically medication abortion and abortion procedures for patients who would otherwise pass the state's gestational limit—to continue in Oklahoma until April 20.

  • April 13: The 10th Circuit denies the state's request to stay the temporary restraining order.

  • April 20: The district court grants a preliminary injunction, allowing most abortion care to continue effective immediately, and allowing abortion care to resume fully starting April 24.

  • April 27: The 10th Circuit rules in favor of abortion providers, denying Oklahoma's request to stay the district court ruling.

Legal filings in this case:

Oklahoma complaint, temporary restraining order, 10th Circuit decision, district court preliminary injunction and 10th Circuit decision