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Coronavirus In Ohio: State Considering Next Move In Surgical Abortion Fight

Attorney General Dave Yost speaks at a press conference in 2018.
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is considering the next move after a federal judge blocked an order by Ohio banning surgical abortions.

Earlier this week, a federal judge temporarily ruled Ohio cannot force abortion clinics to close under the state's order banning elective, non-essential surgeries. Now the state is considering its next move.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says the state still wants to stop clinics from performing surgical abortions, despite a federal judge ruling that the order shouldn't be applied to abortion providers.

"Enforcement creates a substantial obstacle in the path of patients seeking pre-viability abortions, thus creating an undue burden on abortion access," reads the ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett.

Yost says it’s a matter of conserving protective equipment that he says should be directed to health care providers working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Whatever we can do that is going to reach that end the quickest is what we are going to do. We are consulting with the experts at the Ohio Department of Health and we will decide on our next moves," Yost says.

Jessie Hill, attorney for the ACLU of Ohio, says clinics have taken steps to reduce their use of protective equipment and are encouraging patients to get medication abortions when possible.

In his ruling, Barrett ordered that abortion providers must determine on a case-by-case basis if a surgical procedure can be safely postponed to save resources. If it can't be delayed because of timing or other medical conditions, the procedure should be deemed "legally essential to preserve a woman's right to constitutionally protected access to abortions."

Similar legal battles have been playing out across the country. A judge blocked a similar order from taking effect in Alabama.

In Texas, after a federal judge originally sided with abortion providers, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed course and ruled that the governor's order suspending abortions during the pandemic can continue.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.