Author granted license

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

9-2021

ISSN

2071-8322

Publisher

Cambridge University Press

Language

en-US

Abstract

Emergencies are exceptions to the rule. Laws that respond to emergencies can create exceptions to rules that protect human rights. In long lasting emergencies, these exceptions can become the rule, diluting human rights and eroding the rule of law. In the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted states to change rules governing commercial and personal activities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Many governors’ executive orders were challenged as violations of the constitutionally protected rights of those affected. Judges are deciding whether emergencies can justify more restrictions than would be permitted in normal circumstances and whether some rights deserve more protection than others, even in an emergency. This article analyzes ongoing litigation involving emergency restrictions on religious freedom and access to reproductive health services. These cases suggest that some judges are altering the standards of judicial review of the state’s emergency powers in ways that could permanently strengthen some rights and dilute others in normal circumstances.

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