Ohio’s attorney general demanded abortion clinics stop providing surgical abortions, calling them ‘non-essential and elective’ amid coronavirus crisis

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  • Ohio’s attorney general, Dave Yost, demanded all abortion clinics in the state stop performing abortions to comply with a state order against elective medical procedures. 
  • Ohio, which has had some of the most aggressive coronavirus-prevention efforts, is also known for some of the most aggressive attempts nationwide to limit access to abortion. 
  • “If you or your facility do not immediately stop performing non-essential or elective surgical abortions in compliance with the (health director’s) order, the Department of Health will take all appropriate measures,” Yost wrote in a letter to two abortion clinics.
  • Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio said it would keep its doors open and continue offering surgical abortions despite Yost’s order.
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Two of Ohio’s abortion clinics received a letter from the attorney general, Dave Yost, on Friday demanding they stop providing surgical abortions amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Yost’s order stemmed from an Ohio policy prohibiting elective surgeries as the state attempts to preserve medical equipment.

“You and your facility are ordered to immediately stop performing non-essential and elective surgical abortions. Non-essential surgical abortions are those that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient,” Yost’s letter said, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

It continued: “If you or your facility do not immediately stop performing non-essential or elective surgical abortions in compliance with the (health director’s) order, the Department of Health will take all appropriate measures.”

Ohio has been one of several states nationwide that have attempted to enact restrictions on access to abortion in the state.

Gov. Mike DeWine, also a Republican, signed a law last year passed by the state’s GOP-controlled legislature that prohibited abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat was detected — about six weeks into a pregnancy and just about two weeks after a missed menstrual cycle. A federal judge placed a temporary ban on the law in October 2019.

Donald Wilson, 64, protests against abortion in front of the Planned Parenthood Health Center on September 8, 2015 in Akron, OH.

Mary F. Calvert For The Washington Post via Getty Images


In a statement on Saturday, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio said it would keep its doors open and continue offering surgical abortions despite Yost’s order, arguing that surgical abortions are essential services. 

“Under that order, Planned Parenthood can still continue providing essential procedures, including surgical abortion, and our health centers continue to offer other health care services that our patients depend on. Our doors remain open for this care,” Iris E. Harvey and Kersha Deibel, presidents and CEOs of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, said in a statement. 

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland in a statement accused state leaders of using the coronavirus pandemic to further their political platform. 

“People decide to end their pregnancies for a complex constellation of reasons that include the impact of pregnancy and birth on their health, ability to work, and strained economic circumstances,” Copeland said. “These are conditions that do not go away—and are likely heightened—in pandemic conditions. Denying or delaying abortion care places an immediate burden on patients, their families, and the health system, and can have profound and lasting consequences.” 

In a joint statement, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, the American Gynecological & Obstetrical Society, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the Society for Academic Specialists in General Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Society of Family Planning, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine said they did not support COVID-19 prevention efforts “that cancel or delay abortion procedures.” 

At a press conference Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence urged people to cancel elective medical procedures, even visits to the dentist, in order to preserve medical equipment among fears of national shortages. Some hospitals in the US have already reported re-using surgical masks amid shortages. 

Although Yost’s letters went only to a clinic in Dayton and another in Cincinnati after his office received complaints about those facilities, a Yost spokesperson told The Columbus Dispatch the mandate applied to all abortion clinics in the state. 

Ohio leaders, and in particular its governor, have been lauded over its aggressive steps to combat coronavirus, including schools and a host of businesses including bars, restaurants, nail salons, barbershops, and tattoo parlors.

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