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Ohio Is Attempting to Use COVID-19 to Block Abortion Access

Reproductive justice IS healthcare.

Abortion rights activists rally in front of the US Supreme Court

While COVID-19 continues to keep us sequestered in our homes, some lawmakers (I’m talking about you, republicans) are taking the opportunity to chip away at our civil rights. Idaho has already used the crisis to pass two anti-trans bills instead of effective measures to protect their citizens’ health.

Now, Ohio is trying to leverage the shortage of protective personal equipment (PPE) to stop doctors from performing abortions. Due to the shortage of PPE, local governments are asking doctors and healthcare providers to postpone nonessential operations. And that makes sense. Holding off on these surgeries will free up space, time, and supplies as the country undergoes a shortage of all three.

In response, Ohio authorities are trying to classify abortions as “nonessential” procedures in a backdoor attempt to suppress reproductive rights. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sent a letter to three of the state’s abortion providers telling them, “[Y]ou 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.”

The letters were sent to Women’s Med Center in Dayton, Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio’s Cincinnati Surgery Center, and Preterm in Cleveland. Yost claimed that his letters were an order from the Ohio Department of Health, writing “If you or your facility do not immediately stop performing non-essential or elective surgical abortions in compliance with the attached order, the Department of Health will take all appropriate measures.”

But the Department of Health’s order to halt nonessential surgeries never mentioned abortion. For that matter, it didn’t outline any specific rules for what qualifies as an essential or inessential surgery or procedure. Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio issued a statement via Twitter, promising patients that they were still operational.

Freda Levenson, the legal director at the ACLU of Ohio, released a statement saying “We are in an unprecedented time of crisis, and everyone needs to ensure that people’s health and safety is protected … But the government should not use this crisis as an excuse to target abortion clinics and attempt to take away the ability of Ohioans to access abortion, which is time-sensitive and essential health care.”

This craven attempt to block abortion access under the guise of COVID-19 is reckless and wildly irresponsible. Ohio already has severe restrictions in place, which include a ban on abortion after 20 weeks. Ohio was also one of the states to pass the oppressive “heartbeat ban”, which would prohibit abortion before most patients even know that they are pregnant. The law, which provides no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, passed but was blocked due to ongoing litigation.

Lawmakers like Yost and his cronies should spend their time protecting their citizens and equipping their healthcare workers instead of making the crisis worse. Their actions are irresponsible and dangerous, and hopefully Ohio voters will hold them accountable in November.

(via HuffPost, image: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.