Abortion clinics in Ohio have been ordered to cease abortion operations amid the COVID-19 outbreak as the state government and pro-choice groups spar over the definition of "essential" healthcare.
On Friday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) sent a letter to two abortion clinics — Women's Med Center in Dayton and Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio's Cincinnati Surgery Center — ordering them to stop “non-essential” procedures that require equipment such as surgical masks.
"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, according to CBS.
Yost’s letter follows an order the state’s health department issued Wednesday, ordering the suspension of all “nonessential” medical procedures and elective surgeries.
"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 added.
Pro-choice groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood say the order is an excuse from the state to restrict access to abortion.
Ohio's legislators have sought to curb people's access to abortion prior to the pandemic.
“Planned Parenthood’s top priority is ensuring every person can continue accessing essential healthcare, including abortion,” Planned Parenthood of Ohio said in a statement, adding that they are still being compliant with the state order.
“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,” they added.
Here is our statement with @PPGreaterOH & @PPSWO in response to @Yost4Ohio urging clinics to cease-and-desist surgical abortions.— Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio (@PPAOhio) March 21, 2020
Patients will always be the top priority. Now is the time to expand health care, not restrict it. pic.twitter.com/8Aezn6Go8k