- Several states deemed abortion procedures non-essential or ordered that they must cease during the pandemic.
- Health departments under Republican governors in Texas and Ohio as well as the governor of Mississippi said abortions should stop during the coronavirus outbreak.
- “Those who violate the governor’s order will be met with the full force of the law,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
As state health departments ban medical procedures that use Personal Protective Equipment during the coronavirus pandemic, several state health departments deemed abortions to be non-essential or ordered that they cease during the outbreak.
Democratic governors in New York, Washington and New Jersey have deemed abortion an “essential” procedure. (RELATED: ‘COMPLETE AND UTTER BULL****’: Abortion Supporters Furious After Ohio Shuts Down ‘Nonessential’ Abortion Providers)
But health departments under Republican governors in Texas and Ohio as well as the governor of Mississippi said the procedures are non-essential and must be banned in order to reserve Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for fighting coronavirus.
PPE can include respirators, eye protection, hearing protection, protective clothing, gas masks, gloves, overalls, boots and googles, according to the CDC.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared Monday that abortion providers “must postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary,” pursuant to an executive order from Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The order took effect immediately and will be in place at least until April 21.
“Failure to comply with an executive order issued by the governor related to the COVID-19 disaster can result in penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time,” the AG’s office said in a press release. (RELATED: ‘WE ARE OPEN’: Cleveland Abortion Clinic Defies Health Department Order To Stop Performing Abortions)
Paxton added: “We must work together as Texans to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that our health care professionals and facilities have all the resources they need to fight the virus at this time. No one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers. Those who violate the governor’s order will be met with the full force of the law.”
Abortion clinics and groups condemned Paxton’s actions, saying that abortion access is essential.
“There are many reasons women decide to have an abortion in the already limited time window state law allows, and a delay means denying them the constitutional right to make those decisions in a safe, timely manner with the help of their doctors,” Texas Freedom Network president Kathy Miller said in a statement.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, who is president of Whole Women’s Health and Whole Women’s Health Alliance operating three Texas clinics as well as facilities in other states, said abortion is “essential” and “time-sensitive.”
“Many of our patients travel hundreds of miles across the state for care, and some even travel across state lines to access abortion. Additionally, our patients are subjected to mandatory delays and multiple medically-unnecessary visits – all of which already delay timely care,” she told the DCNF on Wednesday.
She added: “Emergency actions during a global pandemic should advance health and safety for us all, not force people to delay much needed care and possibly exacerbate their health situations by doing so. Patients cannot wait until this pandemic is over to receive safe abortion care.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced Tuesday that the only abortion clinic in the state, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, must stop performing abortions due to the Mississippi Department of Health’s temporary ban on all elective medical procedures and non-essential medical visits during the pandemic.
“We’ll take whatever action we need to protect the not only the lives of unborn children, but also the lives of anyone who may contract this particular virus,” he told reporters, according to the Clarion Ledger. ” … I don’t know any specifics, so I’m not saying they are currently operating. I just simply don’t know … We’ll take whatever necessary actions.”
He added: “We’re doing everything in our power, and have for many years, to make Mississippi the safest place in America for unborn children.”
He also said he would take “additional action” against the Jackson, Mississippi, clinic if it continues to perform abortions.
Dr. Thomas Dobbs, a state health officer, said during the Tuesday news conference with the governor that he was not familiar with Reeves’s promise.
“And before I would make any comments, I think we have to review the situation a bit more,” he added, according to the Clarion Ledger.
The Mississippi Department of Health did not yet respond to a request for comment from the DCNF as to whether the state will ban abortions.
An unnamed employee at the abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, told the DCNF the clinic is open but will not be performing abortions on Wednesday, for the rest of the week, or for the foreseeable future until given direction by the government. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will follow government direction, the employee said.
She refused to give a name, directed the DCNF to the clinic’s communications team, and ended the call. The same employee refused to connect the DCNF with the clinic’s communications team when the DCNF called an additional time and said the clinic declined to comment.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced March 17 that the Ohio Department of Health would postpone elective surgeries and procedures that use PPE. The order went into effect March 18.
Following the order, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sent Friday letters to the Women’s Med Center in Dayton and Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio’s Cincinnati Surgery Center ordering the abortion clinics to stop providing any services that require personal protective equipment, Ohio attorney general spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle told the DCNF on Saturday.
Preterm employee Fiona Thomas confirmed to the DCNF on Monday morning that the Cleveland clinic would not stop performing abortions, despite a Wednesday order from the ODH and a Friday letter from Attorney General Dave Yost.
Following the DCNF’s report on the matter, press secretary Melanie Amato said in a Monday evening statement to the DCNF that the ODH “has been made aware of allegations that some health care providers appear to have violated the order on performing non-elective procedures.” (RELATED: Ohio Department Of Health Issues Cease And Desist To Abortion Clinic Defying Coronavirus Order)
“When ODH is made aware of allegations that medical facilities are not being complied with ODH’s order, ODH is asking the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to issue cease and desist orders,” Amato said. “These orders have started going out.”
“This is now an enforcement issue,” she added.
Amato told the DCNF on Wednesday morning that there are no updates on the situation.
Others Might Follow
The Louisiana Department of Health announced March 21 that all licensed health care facilities in the state postpone all medical and surgical procedures until further notice (unless to treat an emergency medical condition). The measure is intended to preserve PPE and “to utilize hospital staffing, equipment, and bed capacity” for the transition to the COVID-19 emergency.
The Louisiana Attorney General directed the DCNF to the Louisiana Department of Health, which has not yet responded to a request for comment.
This post will be updated if additional states ban abortion procedures during the coronavirus pandemic.
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