Governors and attorneys general in some states have responded to the coronavirus outbreak by pushing the same partisan priorities they always have.
Republicans in Mississippi and Texas imposed limits on abortion access, and New Jersey’s Democratic governor refused to categorize gun shops as essential services that could remain open during the pandemic — setting off court battles, reported Reuters.
“It’s hard to imagine more compelling circumstances to restrict someone’s fundamental rights than a deadly epidemic,” said Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.
Abortion rights activists have sued Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton after he declared abortion providers were covered by a state order canceling non-urgent surgical procedures, and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves threatened action against the state’s sole abortion clinic if procedures did not end during the pandemic.
Ohio and Louisiana have imposed similar orders.
At two lawsuits have been filed by gun rights activists against New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s designation of gun shops as nonessential.
One lawsuit complains that state police stopped conducting legally necessary background checks after Murphy’s executive order, which the complaint describes “as a perpetual ban on purchasing firearms and ammunition.”
“The Second Amendment cannot simply be put on hold because of COVID-19,” argued Gun Owners of America, which complained to the FBI about the background check pause.
Pennsylvania’s Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf allowed gun shops to reopen on a limited basis after an emergency legal challenge reached the state Supreme Court.
Voting rights groups have also raised questions about the coronavirus’ impact on November’s election, and they have joined Democrats in calling for all Americans to be allowed to vote by mail, as some states permit.
But vote by mail measures are strongly opposed by Republicans.