Abortion providers in Ohio are defying a state mandate to cease abortion procedures in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, claiming their services are "essential health care."
The decision to continue providing abortions comes as states are adopting strict lockdown operations to combat the spread of the virus. The defiance could bring the clinics into legal conflict with the state government.
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At least five of the state's six abortion providers will defy the order. The state attorney general's office said it is considering pursuing legal action against the clinics if they continue their refusal to comply with the shutdown.
A Cleveland abortion clinic told the Daily Caller it will not cooperate with the order from the state government. Ohio Planned Parenthood representatives told CBS News their priority is "ensuring that every person can continue accessing essential health care, including abortion."
Last week, the Ohio Department of Health ordered the state's abortion clinics to halt "non-essential and elective surgical abortions" that require the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
"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," Ohio attorney general Dave Yost (R.) told the clinics, according to CBS News.
The office stressed that the shutdown is focused on procedures that use PPE, which has become a major focus of the coronavirus response. Hospitals and health care providers have been sounding the alarm about potential shortages of the equipment, which is vital for treating coronavirus patients.
Ohio is not the only state to take action against abortion providers. Texas attorney general Ken Paxton (R.) also ordered a shutdown of abortion clinics unless the health of the mother is in danger.
"No one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers," the Texas attorney general's office said in a statement on Monday.
Ohio governor Mike DeWine (R.) also announced a two-week stay-at-home order, effective at midnight on Monday.