Ohio Orders Abortion Clinics to Stop ‘Nonessential’ Abortions and Surgeries Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

The Ohio Attorney General’s office ordered abortion clinics in the state to stop performing “nonessential” abortions and surgeries amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to letters the AG’s office sent.

“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,” the letters, which were reviewed by CNN, say. Surgical abortions, the letters say, “involve the use of PPE.”

The Attorney General’s office said the letters, signed by Ohio Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson, comply with an order from Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, who wrote that effective March 18, all non-essential or elective surgeries and procedures “should not be conducted.”

“This is not an abortion issue,” Bethany McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, told CNN. “A letter was also sent to a urology group that was allegedly performing elective surgeries. As our client, if Dr. Acton’s office determines that her order was violated by any surgical facility in Ohio, they can refer it to our office to pursue legal action on behalf of the Ohio Department of Health.”

In her order, Acton defined a non-essential surgery as “any procedure that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient.”

Top health care officials across the country say there is not enough stockpiled medical protective equipment like masks, gowns and gloves to fulfill the anticipated need of nation’s health care system as it deals with coronavirus. To save equipment and hospital space, the White House recommended canceling non-essential elective surgeries such as cataracts and colonoscopies.

Ohio issued a statewide “stay at home” order Sunday to try to stop the coronavirus from infecting and killing more people, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said. DeWine, a Republican, was among the first governors in the country to aggressively shut down activity to stem the virus’s spread.

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SOURCE: CNN, Kristina Sgueglia, Alta Spells, and Sheena Jones