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Judge denies ACLU’s bid to block requirement of COVID-19 testing before abortion

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Update 5/11/2020: A federal judge on Thursday denied the request of the American Civil Liberties Union and Arkansas abortion businesses to block a policy requiring abortion-minded women to be screened for COVID-19 before undergoing an abortion, like every other person undergoing elective procedures must.

U.S. District Judge Brian Miller said, “this directive applies equally to all surgical procedures and does not single out abortion providers or surgical abortions.” According to Arkansas Online, Miller cited the 8th Circuit’s admonition that in the event a state faces a public health crisis – such as COVID-19 – it is allowed to take measures that may infringe on certain rights.

5/6/2020: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and abortion providers in Arkansas are suing the state to block a policy that would require abortion-minded women to be screened for the coronavirus (COVID-19) before obtaining abortions. A previous order from the Arkansas Department of Health had limited elective surgeries, but this latest update mandates that any woman seeking an abortion must test negative for the virus 48 hours prior to the procedure. The regulation is meant to reduce the amount of people coming into contact with COVID-19, but some abortion advocates view it as an unnecessary restriction.

According to CNN, “Arkansas law currently requires abortion seekers to come to abortion clinics at least 72 hours before the procedure to receive informed consent information.”

“Delaying abortion care across the board for a COVID-19 test is especially unwarranted in view of Arkansas’s otherwise permissive approach to letting individuals mix and mingle in restaurants and gyms without negative COVID tests,” the lawsuit reads. “For women who cannot obtain access to COVID-19 NAAT testing within 48-hours of their procedures, the Directive entirely bars them from exercising their constitutional right to receive pre-viability abortion care in Arkansas.” 

READ: Court rules surgical abortions can be banned in Arkansas during pandemic

The state has made an effort to ban elective surgeries due to the threat of COVID-19. Though the Arkansas Department of Health had been blocked by a federal judge from preventing the Little Rock Family Center from committing surgical abortions, an Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the policy. The court pointed out that Arkansas has seen more than 2,000 COVID-19 cases, and the ruling made sure to note that providing abortion services wastes personal protective equipment and runs the risk of spreading the disease. 

Though the requirement would still permit abortions, it would potentially reduce the amount committed in the state if women cannot be cleared as negative for COVID-19. For the director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, Jennifer Dalven, this action is “cruel.” 

“Once again, Arkansas is putting up medically unnecessary and insurmountable obstacles for patients seeking abortion care,” Dalven said. “The pandemic has put families that were already struggling under tremendous strain. They are losing their jobs and doing everything they can just to keep their families healthy and make ends meet. Now, in the middle of all this, Arkansas is forcing them to run around the state in search of tests that don’t exist and when they can’t get them, they are forced to continue pregnancies and have children they feel ill equipped to care for.” 

Instead of being directed toward life-affirming resources and help, women who may feel overwhelmed because of the outbreak are being pushed towards abortion. This recent case from the ACLU demonstrates that, showing there’s nothing that will stop abortion advocacy groups from pushing their agenda.

To find life-affirming resources in Arkansas for pregnant and parenting women, click here.

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