Ohio abortion clinics remain open despite orders to stop

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In this June 4, 2019, file photo, a Planned Parenthood clinic is photographed in St. Louis. Hearings between Planned Parenthood and Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services could determine whether Planned Parenthood will keep its abortion license. (Source: AP Photo, Jeff Roberson, File/AP)

Abortion clinics in Ohio were told to suspend their services to free up protective medical gear for those fighting the coronavirus outbreak, but the clinics and Planned Parenthood are saying they will ignore the directive and keep on destroying human fetuses.

The Ohio Department of Health last week ordered a halt to all “non-essential and elective surgeries” to ensure the availability of protective gear for health care workers. By the end of the week the state Attorney General’s office had sent specific letters to two of Ohio’s six abortion clinics, ordering them to “immediately stop performing non-essential and elective surgical abortions.”

Over the weekend a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office clarified to CBS News that all of the state’s abortion providers needed to stop offering the procedure.

At least five of the state’s six providers responded negatively, however, saying abortion is necessary and time-sensitive and that there will be no interruption of services.

“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,” said Iris E. Harvey and Kersha Deibel, the respective heads of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, in a statement to CBS News.

“Abortion is an essential, time-sensitive medical procedure.”

Planned Parenthood operates three of Ohio’s surgical abortion providers: Planned Parenthood Bedford Health Center, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio in Cincinnati and Planned Parenthood East Health in Columbus.

A lawyer for Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region responded to the letter from the Attorney General’s office, saying the clinic was in compliance with the Health Department’s order. Harvey and Deibel said this allows Planned Parenthood to “still continue providing essential procedures, including surgical abortion.”

On its website, Preterm of Cleveland said it also would continue providing abortion services despite the Attorney General’s letter. However, the clinic said it would be reducing the number of daily appointments. The Women’s Med Center of Dayton also has said it would continue to perform abortions, according to local news reports. Over the weekend it was unclear whether Northeast Ohio Women’s Center of Akron would continue as well.

The Attorney General’s office said it will take legal action against the clinics if the Health Department determines they are violating the order restricting “non-essential” procedures.

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