Tennessee is one of the most recent states to try and ban surgical abortions, but the courts have reversed the ban. Over the last few weeks, it’s become apparent that the courts cannot decide whether the states have the right to temporarily stop abortions, with some upholding and some overthrowing various bans. So, there is a growing legal debate on whether a woman’s right to choose supersedes the state or nation’s right to protect both necessary medical supplies and the lives of preborn babies. 

On Friday, a federal judge blocked Tennessee’s abortion ban. Gov. Bill Lee had issued an executive order banning non-emergency health procedures, including surgical abortions, in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus and to reserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical providers dealing with the coronavirus cases. 

 According to The Hill, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman wrote, “Delaying a woman’s access to abortion even by a matter of days can result in her having to undergo a lengthier and more complex procedure that involves progressively greater health risks, or can result in her losing the right to obtain an abortion altogether.”

Tennessee’s attorney general and governor have filed an appeal. While this judge blocked the abortion ban, other courts have upheld bans, creating legal confusion. 

On Monday, a federal appeals court affirmed Texas’ ban on abortion, both chemical/medical and surgical. The decision was made after the ban was lifted and then reinstated seemingly several times over the last couple of weeks.

Initially, Texas instituted a ban on March 23 only to have it halted by a federal judge on March 30. But the following day, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the temporary restraining order. By April 7, the Fifth Circuit affirmed its decision and then the same judge who ordered the initial restraining order reissued another temporary restraining order before the ban was finally upheld.  

This is the latest salvo in the growing war between pro-abortion activists and pro-life supporters when it comes to abortion access during a global pandemic. While pro-life advocates support banning abortion in order to conserve PPE and protect the lives of preborn babies, abortion activists argue that abortion must remain legal because it is a time-sensitive procedure. 

Texas and Tennessee are not the only states where abortion bans have been approved and then later blocked in the courts. Ohio, Iowa, Alabama, Oklahoma and Arkansas have all attempted bans and are now in the courts fighting to keep them. Many others have discussed passing similar measures.

In the 47 years since the Supreme Court passed Roe v. Wade, the country has never had to deal with a worldwide pandemic like the coronavirus. As a result, there is no guidance for the courts when it comes to whether temporary abortion bans are permissible during a global crisis. If one of the cases makes it up to the Supreme Court, it has the ability to set a precedent for many, many years.

Hopefully, the court will reach this conclusion: Despite abortion’s supposed “small time frame,” the choice of women to have an abortion does not supersede the nation’s (or the state’s) right to protect its interests both in the short- and long-term.

It’s the only decision that makes sense in a time of crisis.