News & Politics

Ohio Abortion Clinics Defy Order to Cease 'Non-Essential and Elective' Abortions

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Abortion clinics in the state of Ohio have refused to follow coronavirus-related orders from the state’s health director and attorney general. The officials directed the clinics to cease “non-essential and elective” surgeries such as abortion, but the state’s Planned Parenthood offices shot back with promises to remain open, implying that there is no such thing as a “non-essential and elective” abortion.

Ohio Health Director Amy Acton had directed all surgical facilities — including but not limited to abortion clinics — to stop performing elective surgeries in order “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,” according to the order from Acton.

Attorney General Dave Yost sent letters to three abortion clinics on Friday and Saturday, urging compliance with the order. “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,” read the letters, first obtained by The Columbus Dispatch.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland accused Yost and Mike Gonidakis (president of Ohio Right to Life and member of the state medical board) of “exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to further their agenda to close Ohio’s abortion clinics.”

Yet Bethany McCorkle, a spokeswoman for Yost’s office, told CNN, “This is not an abortion issue. 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.”

Planned Parenthood operatives proved savvier in their response. Iris E. Harvey, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, released a joint statement with Kersha Deibel, president of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region.

“Abortion is an essential, time-sensitive medical procedure, as medical experts like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology have recognized,” Harvey and Deibel argued. “Under that order, Planned Parenthood can still continue providing essential procedures, including surgical abortion, and our health centers continue to offer other health care services that our patients depend on. Our doors remain open for this care.”

Activists with the pro-life group Created Equal called various abortion clinics throughout the state, including a Planned Parenthood facility in Bedford Heights, the abortion clinic in Cuyahoga Falls, and the Preterm clinic in Cleveland. Staff at each abortion clinic said they were open and performing abortions.

On Sunday, Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) issued a stay-at-home order, but abortion clinics are still open for business.

“Unfortunately, there is this incredible double standard — or this hypocrisy — that is happening right now in California and beyond in many other states, because on the one hand we’re ready to protect human life from the virus. We’re literally shutting down businesses, people’s livelihoods are on the line, many people have lost their jobs, all in order to save innocent life, which I think many people want to get behind, and we care about human life, but then on the on the other hand, we are tolerating abortion facilities being open and on average killing 2,363 children every single day,” Live Action President Lila Rose lamented.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she continued. “It’s not odd considering the way our society treats life in the womb, and we see children as totally disposable. Literally, they can be destroyed as long as they’re in utero. They can just be destroyed and thrown out like medical waste.”

She called for the White House to recommend that states shutter abortion clinics.

Ohio does have an interest in maintaining PPE and other health care resources, so ordering the closure of elective surgical facilities arguably falls within its prerogatives. As for Planned Parenthood’s main point, few surgeries are as “elective” as abortion — which involves the killing of an unborn baby in the womb. In extremely rare cases, killing the unborn may be necessary to save the life of the mother, but the vast majority of abortions involve normal, healthy pregnancies that the mother decides — or is pressured to decide — to consider inconvenient.

Lila Rose is correct: Abortion clinics staying open during this dangerous epidemic powerfully contrasts with the societal push to save lives by slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Abortionists have decided that killing the unborn is a vital and necessary use of PPE and other scarce medical equipment. Horrific.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.