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Texas, Ohio orders on surgeries prompt new abortion fight

UPDATED: Mon., March 23, 2020

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and top officials announce new state policies to combat the coronavirus at the governor's office press conference room on Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Ricardo B. Brazziell / AP)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and top officials announce new state policies to combat the coronavirus at the governor's office press conference room on Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Ricardo B. Brazziell / AP)
Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas – Orders by the governors of Texas and Ohio to stop all non-essential surgeries in those states have unleashed a new battle over access to abortions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide order Sunday to curb the use of medical supplies hospitals will need as they prepare for escalating infections in the spreading of COVID-19. The order bars hospitals from performing surgeries unless the patient faces an immediate risk for “serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician.”

An Abbott spokesman confirmed that would cover abortion in most cases while the order is in place until April 21.

Texas anti-abortion activists hailed the move amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“The abortion industry has been consuming and hoarding medical supplies that are in desperate need around the state including masks, gloves, and other protective gear for medical professionals,” Texas Right to Life said in a statement Monday.

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clinics in Ohio received letters from Republican Attorney General Dave Yost on Friday ordering them to cease all “non-essential“ surgical abortions. Yost wrote that the procedures violate a March 17 order issued by the state health director.

Clinics, abortion rights groups and some state lawmakers pushed back, saying abortions are both essential and time-sensitive.

“During an emergency, there is always a chance of government overreach under the guise of `security’ or adherence to `law and order,’“ the Ohio Democratic Women’s Legislative Caucus said in a statement. “In times of national crisis, we have seen egregious acts that have circumvented our freedoms before. And make no mistake – we are seeing them today.”

Bethany McCorkle, a spokesman for Yost, said the orders sent to three clinic operators are not political. She said they were sent in response to complaints and similar to those sent to a urology practice that was also violating the order.

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