“The order was issued, in part, to preserve PPE (personal protective equipment) for health care providers who are battling the Covid-19 pandemic that is spreading in our state and also to preserve critical hospital capacity and resources,” the letters, which were reviewed by CNN, say. Surgical abortions, the letters say, “involve the use of PPE.”
The Attorney General’s office said the letters, signed by Ohio Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson, comply with an order from Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, who wrote that effective March 18, all non-essential or elective surgeries and procedures “should not be conducted.”
“This is not an abortion issue,” Bethany McCorkle, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, told CNN. “A letter was also sent to a urology group that was allegedly performing elective surgeries. As our client, if Dr. Acton’s office determines that her order was violated by any surgical facility in Ohio, they can refer it to our office to pursue legal action on behalf of the Ohio Department of Health.”
In her order, Acton defined a non-essential surgery as “any procedure that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient.”
Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region said in a statement that it is abiding by the order regarding personal protective equipment.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, a non-profit that supports legal abortion, said that “abortion care is a time-sensitive medical situation that cannot be significantly delayed without profound consequences.”
“Ohioans are continuing to rely on their trusted community abortion providers during this crisis, and Ohio’s elected officials should not stand between patients and their doctors,” the group said. “Abortion is an essential health service. Attorney General Dave Yost and Ohio Right to Life president and State Medical Board member Mike Gonidakis should not be exploiting the Covid-19 crisis to further their agenda to close Ohio’s abortion clinics.”
In a press conference on Saturday, Acton said the order was not a political decision.
“I am the doctor for 11.7 million people and all women no matter where they fall on this,” she said. “And I think that’s very important we cannot allow the politics of things to get in the way of doing what we have to do in a state of emergency.”
CNN’s Sarah Jorgensen and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.