Photo via Progress Ohio/Flickr
On March 17, the Ohio Department of Health issued an order to postpone elective surgeries and procedures, with the goal of preserving personal protective equipment (PPE) for those dealing directly with COVID-19 patients and to preserve the number of available hospital beds.
That order told doctors and hospitals to reschedule non-essential procedures. Some examples of criteria given to determine what constitutes an essential surgery are is there threat to the patient's life, a permanent dysfunction of an extremity or organ system, risk of metastasis or progression of staging and risk of rapidly worsening to severe symptoms? It did not provide a list of banned or accepted surgeries.
On March 20, Ohio's Deputy Attorney General, Jonathan Fulkerson, wrote a letter to Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio that non-essential surgical abortions were included in that order. That letter came after groups including Cincinnati Right to Life contacted Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton saying Planned Parenthood locations were still open.
"The Ohio Department of Health has received a complaint that your facility has been performing or continues to offer to perform surgical abortions, which necessarily involve the use of PPE," he wrote. "On behalf of the Department, 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."
Surgical abortions are only one facet of the health services that Planned Parenthood provides. As per their mission statement, "Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide."
The attorney general's letter said, "If you or your facility do not immediately stop performing non-essential or elective surgical abortions in compliance with the...order, the Department of Health will take all appropriate measures."
Planned Parenthood responded in a statement from Iris E. Harvey and Kersha Deibel, the presidents and CEOs of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, that health care is an essential function of the facility and that abortions are an essential and time-sensitive facet of that. They also noted they are complying with the order regarding PPE usage.
“Planned Parenthood’s top priority is ensuring that every person can continue accessing essential health care, including abortion. We know your health care can’t wait. 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," the statement reads. "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 in short supply."
"Our health centers continue to offer other health care services that our patients depend on. Our doors remain open for this care," they say, adding that they are "doing our part to conserve needed resources and to protect the health and safety of our patients and staff."
PPSWO’s attorney also responded to the attorney general's letter saying they are complying with Director Acton’s order.