Appeals court: Tennessee must continue allowing abortions

Tennessee

FILE – In this March 16, 2020, file photo, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee answers questions concerning the state’s response to the coronavirus during a news conference in Nashville, Tenn. Tennessee abortion providers are asking a federal judge to order that abortions can go forward despite an executive order from Gov. Lee aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus. Their lawyers argue in a motion filed on Monday, April 13, 2020, that Lee’s order blocking “nonemergency healthcare procedures” should not apply to abortions. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that Tennessee must continue allowing abortions amid a temporary ban on nonessential medical procedures during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The ruling follows a U.S. District judge’s order last week that abortions could proceed during the pandemic.

The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati, issued its opinion Friday. The justices wrote that courts must give governments flexibility to respond to a crisis.

“Affording flexibility, however, is not the same as abdicating responsibility, especially when well-established constitutional rights are at stake, as the right to an abortion most assuredly is,” the court wrote in the 33-page opinion.

Tennessee’s attorney general had argued that abortions are not being singled out but treated like any other procedure that is not necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury. Gov. Bill Lee issued an emergency order April 8 banning nonessential procedures for three weeks.

Alex Rieger, representing the Tennessee attorney general’s office, argued in court last week that the ban was to preserve the limited supply of protective equipment for doctors fighting COVID-19 and to help prevent the community spread of the disease.

Several other states are grappling with similar issues. Judges in the past week have ruled to allow abortions to continue in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Ohio and Texas.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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