SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — The office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has ordered a clinic in Cleveland ordering it to stop performing surgical abortions, claiming resources are being unnecessarily used during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter obtained by 3News via our sister station 10TV in Columbus, Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson accused Preterm on Shaker Boulevard of violating Gov. Mike DeWine's order to either cancel or postpone non-essential elective surgeries, a directive given to free up personal protective equipment (PPE) to fight the virus. The Ohio Department of Health apparently received a complaint that the clinic was still performing surgical abortions, which require the use of PPE.
The AG's Office is now telling Preterm to "immediately stop performing non-essential and elective surgical abortions," adding that the ODH would take "appropriate measures" if the procedures continued.
"Non-essential surgical abortions are those that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient," Fulkerson wrote. "This is an unprecedented time in the state’s history and everyone must do their part to help stop the spread of this disease."
The order (which can be read here) does not specifically mention abortions, and Fulkerson's letter did not further clarify what criteria an abortion procedure would have to meet for it to be "essential." When asked during a Saturday press briefing if surgical abortions fall are considered "elective" and therefore temporarily banned, ODH Director Amy Acton merely asked people to "take a look at the order" and emphasized the need to protect PPE. However, she did state, "We cannot allow the politics of things to get in the way of doing what we have to do in a state of emergency."
DeWine, who is pro-life and has signed a since-challenged law banning all abortions in Ohio once a fetal heartbeat is detected, side-stepped the question when asked if an abortion could ever be considered an emergency prodecure.
"There's an order that has been issued; I would refer people to look at that order," the governor said, referring further inquiries to AG Yost. "I'm going to let it go at that."
With the so-called "heartbeat bill" currently on hold at the direction of the courts, abortions are still legal in Ohio up to 20 weeks gestation. Preterm Executive Director Chrisse France issued the following statement to 3News:
"Abortion is an essential, time-sensitive health care service. And any delay in care can have a profound impact on a person’s life, health and well-being.
"Preterm has responded to the letter from Ohio Attorney General Yost and we are in full compliance with the order. We are also following the guidance established by the Centers for Disease Control and the Ohio Department of Health to keep our patients and staff safe and healthy during this crisis. Preterm’s doors will remain open and we will continue providing essential surgeries and procedures, including essential surgical abortions, to our patients so that they can get the care they need when they need it.
"During a public health crisis like this, policymakers’ number one priority should be making sure everyone can get the healthcare they need safely, not actively working to deny our neighbors timely and vital healthcare services—including and especially abortion care."