Ohio Demands Clinics Stop Providing Surgical Abortions During Coronavirus

Photographed by Beth Sacca.
In an effort to preserve medical gear and equipment for the United States’ worsening coronavirus crisis, Ohio Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson on Friday ordered all clinics in his state that provide surgical abortions cease offering the service for the duration of the pandemic. While Fulkerson specifically sent letters to Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio's Cincinnati Surgery Center and Women's Med Center in Dayton, he later noted that the service must not be offered by any clinic in Ohio.
"You and your facility are ordered to immediately stop performing non-essential and elective surgical abortions,” Fulkerson’s letter to the clinics read. He notably referred to the services as “non-essential,” a term many states around the U.S. and countries around the world are dubbing businesses and services that aren’t necessary to the public during increased global lockdowns. The letter continues “Non-essential surgical abortions are those that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient."
Fulkerson goes on to explain that "The order was issued, in part, to preserve PPE (personal protective equipment) for health care providers who are battling the COVID-19 pandemic that is spreading in our state and also to preserve critical hospital capacity and resources."
Fulkerson also threatened legal action against the clinics that continued to perform surgical abortions to those that needed them, stating in the letter that "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." He noted that ordering clinics to cease abortions was not a political move, but a move in compliance with Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton’s March 18 declaration that the surgeries “should not be conducted.”
Despite the implications of this, Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio's Cincinnati Surgery Center has been the only clinic to speak out since the Attorney General's order since receiving their letter, tweeting that they are complying with the Ohio Department of Health and will still provide the “essential procedure” that is surgical abortion to those who need it. But, the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio maintain that healthcare for patients is a top priority — including abortions.
“Planned Parenthood’s top priority is ensuring every person can continue accessing essential healthcare, including abortion,” Planned Parenthood of Ohio said in a statement. “Under that order, Planned Parenthood can still continue providing essential procedures, including surgical abortion, and our health centers continue to provide services that our patients depend on.”
But, the Attorney General's office declaration was quickly condemned by other Ohioans, who saw the call for the end of surgical abortions as a political move. Ohio’s Attorney General David Yost has notably been stood in the way of reproductive freedom in the state in the past, stating in 2019 that he stood behind the state’s “heartbeat bill,” which essentially banned abortion after a fetus’s heartbeat could be detected at six weeks. Now, those who feel that coronavirus healthcare costs are being used as a means to attack women's reproductive rights are speaking out against the new action, which could threaten lives of those seeking abortions in other ways.

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