Coronavirus crisis: Ohio abortion providers say they will remain open

Opponents argue clinics provide elective service that should be halted.

Representatives for a local abortion provider and a national group say their clinics will remain open during the coronavirus crisis because they are complying with a state order that an anti-abortion group claims should shut them down.

The Women’s Med Center of Dayton and Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio say they are complying with an Ohio Department of Health order to cancel “non-essential” or elective surgeries or procedures that use personal protective equipment.

Planned Parenthood says abortions are an essential — not an elective — procedure.

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But an anti-abortion group out of Columbus called Created Equal claims that the clinics are in violation of the order and should have to close.

“If abortion is health care, as the abortion industry claims, this is an opportunity for them to act like it and comply with the governor’s order,” said Mark Harrington, president and founder of Created Equal. “However, we have evidence they are defying the order and staying open. Remaining open risks public health and safety during this national crisis. Abortion centers are not above the law.”

The Women’s Med Center in Kettering will remain open to provide care to Dayton-area women, and the center immediately complied with the state order before it became effective on March 18, said attorney Jennifer Branch, who represents the center.

“In fact, (Women’s Med Center of Dayton) had already taken steps to minimize the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) before the order was issued,” Branch said.

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Deputy Ohio Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson on Friday sent a letter to the Women’s Med Center saying the state received a complaint that the center was performing surgical abortions that use personal protective equipment. He sent the letter to at least one other clinic as well.

“On behalf of the Department, you and your facility are ordered to immediately stop performing non-essential and elective surgical abortions,” according to the letter. “Non-essential surgical abortions are those that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient.”

The letter warned that the Ohio Department of Health would take action if the facility does not stop performing “non-essential” or elective surgical abortions.

Created Equal claims multiple Ohio abortion facilities were violating the order and still performing elective surgery.

Branch said the Women’s Med center immediately responded to the state to say it was in full compliance with the order.

Planned Parenthood said it is taking steps to reduce the use of personal protective equipment and is complying with the state order because abortion is an “essential, time-sensitive medical procedure,” according to a statement from Iris Harvey and Kersha Deibel, presidents and CEOs of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region.

Abortion centers should stop the spread of COVID-19 by closing and providing their resources to health care workers who are fighting the spread, Harrington said.

“Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry care more about abortion than they do stopping the spread of COVID-19,” he said. “Pregnancy is not a disease. Abortion is not health care. Abortion is not essential.”

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