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Federal Judge Rules Abortions Can Continue, ODH Order Partly Held

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman Federal Judge Rules Abortions Can Continue, ODH Order Partly HeldPhoto by Taijuan Moorman.
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Keep up with regular news updates regarding Columbus and Ohio’s response to COVID-19 here.

A federal judge has put a temporary hold on an order by the Ohio Department of Health to cease surgical abortions during the coronavirus pandemic and classify them as nonessential procedures in an effort to conserve scarce personal protective equipment and hospital capacity.

On Monday, March 30, abortion providers in Ohio, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and Planned Parenthood, took emergency legal action to “ensure that they can remain open to provide time-sensitive, essential abortion care to patients.”

“Planned Parenthood knows our patients’ health care cannot wait. That’s why we took action quickly,” said Iris Harvey and Kersha Deibel, presidents and CEOs of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, in a press release. “Anti-abortion activists are creating dangerous distractions when we need public officials to be focusing on the crisis at hand.”

In response, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett for the Southern District of Ohio paused the part of the order that effectively would cease all abortions taking place 10 weeks after conception or later.

The judge paused that part of the order for 14 days, ruling that Ohio abortion clinics could perform surgical abortions if they could not be delayed because of a medical condition or Ohio law would prevent the abortion if delayed.

In his ruling granting a temporary restraining order, Barrett wrote that Ohio officials pushing for the ban on surgical abortions during the coronavirus crisis didn’t demonstrate that the conservation of medical supplies it would achieve would “result in any beneficial amount of net saving of PPE in Ohio such that the net saving of PPE outweighs the harm of eliminating abortion.”

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said that after consultation with experts at the Ohio Department of Health, he would pursue an appeal or some other recourse.

“The state of Ohio’s overriding interest is to save lives in light of the COVID-19 public health emergency. That’s the only reason for the Health Department’s order,” said Yost in a statement. “The state of Ohio will take the course of action that will most quickly achieve that goal — be it an emergency appeal, a trial on the preliminary injunction, a more specifically drawn order or other remedy.”

For more information on COVID-19 in Ohio, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

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