State, abortion clinic lawyers now clashing over health order specifics

By: - March 25, 2020 12:45 am
A medical exam room.

A medical exam room. File photo from

State leaders declined to comment Tuesday on orders the Ohio Attorney General’s Office made to halt surgical abortions as part of a coronavirus-related health order. 

In an order signed March 17 by Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton, non-essential and elective surgeries were halted in order to conserve personal protective equipment, or PPEs. A letter from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office was sent to two Planned Parenthood clinics on March 20 directing them to stop surgical abortions.

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)

A spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Health did not say whether the original order considered abortions, but said since the order was now in place, compliance to the order was “now an enforcement issue.”

“The Ohio Department of Health has been made aware of allegations that some health care providers appear to have violated the order on performing non-elective procedures,” wrote press secretary Melanie Amato in an email to the Capital Journal. “When ODH is made aware of allegations that medical facilities are not being (compliant) with ODH’s order, ODH is asking the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to issue cease and desist orders.”

At his Monday press conference on the coronavirus outbreak in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine DeWine deflected questions about whether the order related to abortions.

“The order that was put out was in regard to elective surgeries and there was criteria laid out in that order, so this is now being handled by the Attorney General and going back and forth with the attorneys of Planned Parenthood,” DeWine said.

DeWine pointed out that another physician’s office, who he didn’t identify, was also sent a letter asking the office to halt elective surgeries. 

Planned Parenthood has maintained that the organization’s clinics have been in compliance with the order, and plan to continue doing their work. 

“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,” a statement reads. “Our doors remain open.”

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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.