Legal Reforms Impacting Public Health during COVID-19 and Beyond

Concurrent Session Block 4: 1:15 – 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday, September 17


Public Health Law on the Frontlines: Changing Lessons for the 21st Century
While the profound impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on all Americans’ health and livelihoods may hopefully diminish in the months ahead, legal repercussions will leave lasting impressions. Public health laws and policies are under substantial scrutiny against the backdrop of significant failures to control COVID-19 cases across the U.S. coupled with constitutional and other objections to efficacious legal interventions. Some legal reforms designed to improve the public’s health (particularly during emergencies) are already underway; others are under consideration. This session explores key current and future legal reforms emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic, offering an assessment of known and potential changes ahead.

  • James G. Hodge, Jr., JD, LLM, Director, Network for Public Health Law—Western Region Office

Assuring Access to Abortion and Reproductive Services
During the spring of 2020, numerous states announced measures suspending abortions in response to COVID-19. Banning abortion during the pandemic is counterproductive. Impeding access to abortion will not help preserve healthcare resources. Moreover, prohibiting access to abortion care exacerbates the strain on the healthcare system. People who lack access to abortions will travel to neighboring states, induce their own abortions, or carry pregnancies to term, which will require prenatal care and assistance in childbirth. Perhaps more importantly, the people hit hardest by suspending abortion care are those for whom the pandemic already has had devastating effects. This session will discuss more effective means for conserving healthcare resources and ways in which policymakers can eliminate barriers to safe abortions services now and in the future.

  • Rachel Rebouché, JD, LLM, Associate Dean for Research and James E. Beasley Professor of Law, Temple University