Judge denies Ohio's request to limit abortions during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 10:57 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 22:58:15-04

CINCINNATI — A federal judge in Ohio has denied the state's attorney general's request to delay a previous order allowing abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Michael R. Barrett upheld a court order that protects a person's right to abortion. Earlier this month, Health Director Dr. Amy Acton ordered elective surgeries postponed in order to preserve supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers fighting coronavirus.

But Barrett's action upholds the order that if "a healthcare provider determines, on a case-by-case basis, that the surgical procedure is medically indicated and cannot be delayed, based on the timing of pre-viability or other medical conditions said procedure is determined legally essential to preserve a woman’s right to constitutionally protected access to abortions."

On Wednesday, Yost's office appealed the order in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"If this Court declines to stay and reverse the District Court’s ruling, the people working hardest to save Ohioans from COVID-19 will die as a result. That is not an exaggeration," Yost wrote in the appeal. "First responders and hospital personnel in Ohio face a critical shortage of 'PPEs'—protective equipment needed to keep them from contracting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19."

Barrett contested that, writing "under a rational reading of the Temporary Restraining Order, nothing in it permits a blanket 'on-demand provision of elective abortions,' ... and Plaintiffs may not perform surgical abortions if they can induce the same abortion medicinally or perform abortions that can be delayed without jeopardizing the mother’s health, life, or ability to exercise her Fourteenth Amendment right to a pre-viability abortion."

Surgical abortions are still legal "when they are necessary because of medical reasons" that would affect the mother's health.

WCPO has reached out to Yost's office for comment on the latest developments and will update this story when we hear back.