A coalition of conservative groups and medical providers have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block surgical abortions in Minnesota during the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court, targets Gov. Tim Walz's executive order limiting "nonessential or elective" procedures to conserve personal protective equipment for heathcare workers treating virus-striken patients. Reproductive health care services, including abortion, are exempt from the order.
Abortion access has emerged as a flash point in the pandemic response nationwide, as Republican governors in several states sought to ban the procedure through their emergency orders. A number of leading medical organizations, including American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists support including abortion as an essential component of comprehensive health care.revenueolis attorney Erick Kaardal filed the Minnesota suit on behalf of several groups that oppose legal abortion, including AALFA Family Clinic, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Pro-Life Action Ministries. He called the decision to allow surgical abortions to continue "critically and irresponsibly wasteful."
"These elective abortion procedures take personal protective equipment away from hospitalrollbacks, emergency rooms, doctors, nurses, and others on the front lines of trying to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus," he said.
The lawsuit names Walz, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm and five abortion providers active in the state. State officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States, said the organization's providers "are in compliance with the governor's orders and have been from day one." The clinics have reduced usage of personal protective gear by limiting routine procedures and expanding telehealth options.
"This lawsuit is based on fantasy, not fact and has been filed by individuals who promote information and services that are medically inaccurate, deceptive and harmful," she said.
Walz's executive action on elective procedures, issued March 19, asks doctors to postpone any "surgery or procedure that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient." Medical care that is necessary to prevent loss of life or prevent cancer stage progression can continue.
The decision to allow abortion providers to remain open was met with criticism from some Republican lawmakers who questioned why abortions can continue when other critical procedures cannot. Supporters argue abortion is time sensitive and essential healthcare.
"Delaying access to abortion for days or weeks can have harmful consequences for people and families struggling to make ends meet," said Erin Maye Quade, a leader of Gender Justice's UnRestrict campaign. "Once someone has decided to have an abortion, they shouldn't be forced to stay pregnant and put their health and safety at risk, especially during a public health crisis."
Torey Van Oot • 651-925-5049