Coronavirus: Texas and Ohio suspend abortions citing fear of spreading virus

Two states criticised by Planned Parenthood for decision

James Crump
Wednesday 25 March 2020 00:03 GMT
Pro-choice activists demonstrating on 4 March
Pro-choice activists demonstrating on 4 March (Saul Loeb AFP)

Texas and Ohio have ordered doctors to suspend abortions, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The two states ordered a stop of non-essential surgeries, which is defined in Ohio’s order as “any procedure that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient”.

Both states cited the need to preserve medical supplies as the reasoning behind the decision and Texas attorney general Ken Paxton clarified that abortion providers were not classed as essential.

Mr Paxton explained that “no one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers”, before adding: “Those who violate the governor’s order will be met with the full force of the law.”

Kathy Miller, the president of abortion rights group the Texas Freedom Network criticised the decision but told AFP that “it’s completely unsurprising to see this attorney general use any excuse to push his ideological agenda”.

“But the truth is reproductive health care is essential health care,” Ms Miller said. “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.”

Bethany McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general told AFP that “this is not an abortion issue. A letter was also sent to a urology group that was allegedly performing elective surgeries”.

Jennifer Branch, a lawyer who has represented abortion providers in Ohio for 20 years, told The Independent that anti-abortion activists are using the pandemic to pursue their political agenda.

“They are trying to stir up politics. They are misunderstanding the government’s order and thinking it is about stopping abortion rather than being about preserving protective equipment,” she said.

“The abortion providers in Ohio are continuing to provide abortions but at the same time complying with the order to preserve personal protective equipment. Trainees and volunteers who are not necessary for the procedure are being kicked out of the room so they do not have to wear protective gear and they are reminding patients they can have medical abortions i.e. take pills.”

Ms Branch added: “The state of Ohio has been trying to ban abortion in many different ways for years. In the past year, they have passed four new abortion bans. There are four suits pending against the state of Ohio.”

In reaction to the news, healthcare provider Planned Parenthood released a statement outlining why abortion is an essential procedure.

“Abortion is an essential and time-sensitive medical procedure, as confirmed by medical experts like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology,” the statement read.

“Delays or additional barriers to care can make it more difficult or even impossible for some patients to access safe, legal abortion.”

According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, upwards of 53,268 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached at least 696.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended a two-week ban on gatherings of more than 50 people as part of the battle to contain the spread of the contagion.

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