Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has asked the state’s abortion providers to stop providing "non-essential" surgical abortions to help preserve personal protective equipment for those on the front lines of the fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“(Y)ou and your facility are ordered to immediately stop performing non-essential and elective surgical abortions,” Ohio AG Yost wrote to three of the state’s abortion providers, according to HuffPost.
“Non-essential surgical abortions are those that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient."
The letters were addressed separately to the Women’s Med Center in Dayton, Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio’s Cincinnati Surgery Center, and Preterm in Cleveland.
“If you or your facility do not immediately stop performing non-essential or elective surgical abortions in compliance with the attached order, the Department of Health will take all appropriate measures,” the letter stated.
Yost's letter comes as the Ohio Department of Health issued an order last week to postpone elective surgeries and procedures in the state's hospitals in order to "help us preserve critically short supplies of PPE (personal protective equipment) and preserve inpatient beds and other equipment for critically ill patients," Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said.
As of early Monday, there were more than 336,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world with 14,641 deaths and 98,334 recoveries, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of U.S. cases stood at more than 32,000 with at least 400 deaths.
Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio responded to Yost’s order, saying its “top priority is ensuring that every person can continue accessing essential health care, including abortion.”
“We are complying with the Ohio Department of Health’s order regarding personal protective equipment, which requires hospitals and surgical facilities to stop providing non-essential surgeries and procedures and take other steps to reduce the use of equipment,” it said. “Under the order, Planned Parenthood can still continue providing essential procedures, including surgical abortions, and our health centers continue to offer other health care services that our parents depend on. Our doors remain open.”
Planned Parenthood said the Health Department's order did not require them to stop providing abortion care, including surgical abortion.
Also last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced in a statement that all elective surgeries, non-essential medical, surgical and dental procedures be delayed during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The number of healthcare providers being asked to assist with the COVID-19 response is on the rise, so non-essential surgeries and procedures should be delayed, CMS said. “The reality is clear and the stakes are high: we need to preserve personal protective equipment for those on the front lines of this fight,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.
CMS explained that delaying non-essential surgeries and procedures will also “free up our healthcare workforce to care for the patients who are most in need.”