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In Ohio, COVID-19 Business Closures Ignite Abortion Debate

Ohio’s Department of Health last week ordered all non-essential surgical and elective procedures to be postponed to preserve the state’s supply of surgical equipment and protective gear.

The order immediately sparked a controversial question: should abortion be considered an “essential service?”

The Department of Health defines “non-essential services” as any procedure that can be delayed without exacerbating a health condition or threatening the patient’s long-term health.

Abortion obviously does not meet these qualifications, but delaying the procedure could make the surgery impossible.

On March 18th, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists joined several health groups in a statement describing abortion as a “time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible.”

In a statement, Planned Parenthood said it would postpone all non-essential services but continue to provide “essential procedures, including surgical abortion.”

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost judged Planned Parenthood to be in violation of the Department of Health’s order, prompting abortion rights groups to accuse the state’s leaders of using the COVID-19 pandemic to restrict access to abortion.

Pro-life politicians are “brazenly exploiting a global pandemic to roll back access to abortion care,” argues Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

In his defense, Mr. Yost noted that he also sent a letter to a urology group that had refused to obey the order.

Author’s Note: 

Abortion rights groups are worried that Ohio will use the pandemic to shut down Planned Parenthood, and rightfully so. Last year, the state passed a ‘heartbeat bill’ that would have blocked virtually all abortions. That bill was defeated by a federal judge.

To date, Ohio has reported 247 COVID-19 cases.


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