Clinics in Ohio ordered to stop ‘non-essential’, ‘elective’ surgical abortions


Clinics in Ohio have been ordered to stop providing "non-essential" and "elective" surgical abortion procedures as the state clamps down on medical services to preserve protective gear amid the growing coronavirus outbreak.

On Friday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sent letters to three facilities that provide abortion — Women's Med Center in Dayton, Preterm in Cleveland and Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio's Cincinnati Surgery Center — ordering them to stop providing any services, like abortion, that require the use of personal protective equipment, said Bethany McCorkle, a spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General's office, in an email to 10TV.

The Ohio Department of Health issued an order that canceled all non-essential or elective surgeries and procedures utilizing personal protective equipment.

Advertisement - Story continues below

"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 wrote in the letter, which was shared with CBS News.

"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."

McCorkle said the order applies to all of Ohio's abortion providers. It was not immediately clear whether or not clinics could continue providing medication abortion. If a clinic uses personal protective equipment to administer the procedure, the order would apply, McCorkle said. According to the United States Department of Labor, personal protective equipment can include, "gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits."

McCorkle clarified that the clinics would be allowed to stay open for other services and told 10TV these letters are not a shut diwn but rather to comply with the health department's order.

Yost's letters ask the facilities to comply with an order issued by the Ohio Department of Health that bans all "non-essential and elective surgeries" in an attempt to preserve protective gear for medical personal fighting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak. Across the country, health care workers have warned of medical-equipment shortages, potentially exposing them to coronavirus as they fight the outbreak.

The health department's order, issued on Wednesday, does not call out whether abortion services would be considered "non-essential" or "elective."

In a press briefing on Saturday, DeWine did not directly answer a question regarding procedures like emergency abortions and referred to the order given by the health department.

Whether abortion is considered "essential" will ultimately determine whether the procedure can continue in Ohio amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Freda Levenson, the legal director at the ACLU of Ohio, said abortion should fall into this category.

"We are in an unprecedented time of crisis, and everyone needs to ensure that people's health and safety is protected," Levenson said in a statement provided to CBS News on Saturday. "But the government should not use this crisis as an excuse to target abortion clinics and attempt to take away the ability of Ohioans to access abortion, which is time-sensitive and essential health care."

Planned Parenthood of Greater of Ohio and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region sent this statement regarding the order:

“Planned Parenthood’s top priority is ensuring that every person can continue accessing essential health care, including abortion. We know your health care can’t wait. Abortion is an essential, time-sensitive medical procedure, as medical experts like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology have recognized.

We are complying with the Ohio Department of Health’s order regarding personal protective equipment, which requires hospitals and surgical facilities to stop providing non-essential surgeries and procedures and take other steps to reduce the use of equipment in short supply. PPSWO’s attorney immediately responded to Ohio Attorney General Yost’s letter, assuring him that PPSWO was complying with Director Acton’s order. 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.

As Ohioans do their part to keep each other healthy during this COVID-19 pandemic, Planned Parenthood is committed to working with public health leaders to serve the community. Every health care provider has a role to play, and we are doing our part to conserve needed resources and to protect the health and safety of our patients and staff. Together, we’ll meet this challenge, no matter what.”

Filed under: