As the novel coronavirus continues to bring everyday life to a crashing halt this week, more and more states are implementing stay-at-home orders in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The outbreak, which the CDC officially named a pandemic earlier this month, has left more than 15,000 U.S. residents infected at the time of publication. Those in the medical field are scrambling for supplies to keep up.
In an effort to reduce risk and combat the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), authorities at both the state and federal level are asking doctors and patients to forego “non-essential” operations for the foreseeable future.
For the Ohio Department of Health, non-essential operations include abortions.
Ohio Attorney General, Dave Yost, sent letters Friday to three of the state’s abortion providers ordering them to stop providing surgical abortions effective immediately.
“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 say.
The Attorney General’s office said the letters 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.”
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.”
Abortion tends to be classified as an elective procedure.
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.”
The purpose of stopping all non-essential surgeries is to aid in the nationwide shortage of medical protective equipment. Health care professionals across the country (and the globe, for that matter) do not have enough masks, gowns, and gloves to safely treat the influx of patients being infected by COVID-19.
As of Friday, Ohio had 351 reported cases of coronavirus throughout the state and 3 deaths so far.
Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region said in a statement that it is abiding by the order regarding personal protective equipment.
“Planned Parenthood’s top priority is ensuring that every person can continue accessing essential health care, including abortion,” the organization said in a statement. “Under that order, Planned Parenthood can still continue providing essential procedures, including surgical abortion, and our health centers continue to provide services that our patients depend on.”
A spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office says, “this is not an abortion issue,” adding that a letter was also sent to a urology group that was allegedly performing elective surgeries.
As the rapidly growing coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, many officials believe that the outbreak will likely cripple abortion services in many regions across the U.S. — particularly in states where abortion is already hard to secure.
Abortion was the leading cause of death worldwide in 2019, killing more than 42 million people around the globe. Perhaps the spreading of coronavirus will actually wind up saving lives that would have otherwise been lost to abortion.