Ohio AG appeals abortion health order decision

The Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse. Photo courtesy of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals website.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office filed an appeal on Thursday asking a court to release them from a restraining order allowing abortions to continue under a coronavirus health order until the appeal can be decided.

A U.S. District Judge ruled partially in favor of Planned Parenthood and other clinics who perform abortions in the state, giving them a 14-day temporary restraining order regarding Attorney General Dave Yost’s cease and desist letter to stop them from performing surgical abortions.

Yost called on Planned Parenthood to stop surgical abortions in accordance with a health order released mid-March to stop non-essential surgeries. The goal of the order was to conserve personal protective equipment, or PPEs. 

In its argument for a stop to the restraining order pending the appeal, the AG’s office said abortion providers and patients would not face “significant hardship” if the order were to continue with the surgical abortion ban. 

The appeal documents also say the order does not ban abortions if they are necessary.

“That means women can get a surgical abortion when necessary to save their lives or to prevent a serious health complication,” the AG’s office said in its notice of appeal. “It also means that doctors can perform abortions when, given time constraints, delay means depriving the patient of the ability to abort.”

The order merely stops doctors “from performing a surgery that can be safely delayed or performed using medication,” court documents stated.

In response to the appeal, attorneys for the clinics said the interpretation in the notice of appeal was the first they’d heard “even though providers for weeks had sought guidance from Defendants regarding the application of the Director’s Order to surgical abortion.”

The CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, Iris Harvey, said the lawsuit’s goal was to clarify the order for their doctors. 

“That’s all our doctors want to do, is to make sure they are following the law as well as make sure they are following their medical practice,” Harvey said. 

Harvey also said the clinics, like any other medical facility, developed a policy to decide what staff and services were essential and what was not. 

“We felt we were in compliance with the directive,” Harvey said. “All of our initial indications were that the Ohio Department of Health was not in opposition.”

The clinic plans to do an inventory of their ventilators and equipment as ordered by the state health department, but one thing they won’t need to inventory is the all-important N95 masks. Those masks have been on the top of needs lists for the state health care workers, but have been in short supply.

“Our health centers don’t use N95 masks,” Harvey said, adding that the limited inventory they did have of N95s have already been donated to a local hospital. 

The clinics response to the AG’s appeal argued banning abortion procedures now would lead to increased use of PPEs when the pregnancies progressed.