AG’s office orders stop on ‘non-essential’ abortions; legislators, advocates condemn move

By: - March 23, 2020 12:30 am

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. (Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images)

Legislators and advocates around the state are reacting after the Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s Office ordered two Planned Parenthood clinics in Ohio to stop performing surgical abortions during the coronavirus outbreak, calling them “non-essential and elective.”

In a letter to Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio’s Cincinnati Surgery Center on March 20, Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson cited the Ohio Department of Health’s March 17 order that non-essential or elective procedures utilizing personal protective equipment, or PPE’s should be halted to preserve that equipment.

“Non-essential surgical abortions are those that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient,” Fulkerson wrote in the letter. “If you or your facility do not immediately stop performing non-essential or elective surgical abortions in compliance with the attached order, the Department of Health will take all appropriate measures.”

The order from the state department of health gives examples of the criteria for an essential surgery, including:

  • Threat to the patient’s life if surgery or procedure is not performed
  • Threat of permanent dysfunction of an extremity or organ system
  • Risk of metastasis or progression of staging
  • Risk of rapidly worsening to severe symptoms (time sensitive)

On Saturday, Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio sent out a statement saying they are complying with the health department’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,” the statement reads. “Our doors remain open.”

Ohio Right to Life President Michael Gonidakis sent a letter to Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio CEO Iris Harvey requesting the organization follow the letter’s directive.

“At this time, Ohio Right to Life and Ohioans across this great state call on you and your organization to put the health and safety of our children, elderly and other vulnerable populations above profit and above abortion,” Gonidakis said.

Advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio argued abortion care is a “time-sensitive medical situation that cannot be significantly delayed without profound consequences.”

“Ohioans are continuing to rely on their trusted community abortion providers during this crisis, and Ohio’s elected officials should not stand between patients and their doctors,” said Executive Director Kellie Copeland in a statement.

Ohio Senate Democrats released a joint statement condemning the AG’s office for the letter. 

“All of Governor (Mike) DeWine’s efforts have been focused on giving Ohio hospitals the resources and space they need to save lives during the coronavirus crisis,” said state Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, in the release. “Every woman who seeks an abortion knows it’s an essential, time sensitive procedure — especially in states like Ohio, who has drastically limited the window when abortions are allowed.”

Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, accused Attorney General Dave Yose of using the outbreak ‘as an instrument to enhance his own goals.”

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.