Mississippi, Texas and Ohio move to limit abortion as part of coronavirus response

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Posted: Mar 25, 2020 3:30 PM
Updated: Mar 25, 2020 3:31 PM


Mississippi, Ohio and Texas are including abortions among nonessential surgical procedures that must be deferred or canceled as coronavirus cases flood the health care system.

State officials say the steps are necessary to preserve protective supplies that are becoming increasingly precious as the pandemic worsens. But abortion-rights groups have decried the actions, saying officials are exploiting a public health crisis to advance a political agenda.

Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said during a news conference Tuesday that he would take action if the state's single clinic was providing elective abortions after the state health department required that non-essential surgery be postponed.

"We're doing everything in our power and have for many years to make Mississippi the safest place in America for unborn children," he said. "It is without question that the lone clinic in Jackson does, in fact, operate doing procedures that are elective and not required, and therefore they should be following the guidelines as offered by the state department of health."

Reeves later said that the order came "not because we're trying to say anything other than we need to protect" personal protective equipment for those impacted by the virus.

When CNN called Jackson Women's Health Organization, the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, the person picking up the phone said a spokesperson was not available and declined to comment.

On Monday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton confirmed that abortion was included in Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's order that health care providers "postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary" to preserve a patient's life or condition.

Violating the order, Paxton noted, could result in fines of up to $1,000 or 180 days imprisonment.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman's Health, which runs three clinics in Texas, slammed the order for, in light of state abortion restrictions, "forc(ing) people to delay much needed care and possibly exacerbate their health situations by doing so. Patients cannot wait until this pandemic is over to receive safe abortion care."

The group canceled appointments yesterday and is "currently exploring all options at this point," Jessica Shein, the group's communications director, told CNN Wednesday.

And in Ohio, Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson sent letters to three abortion providers last week directing them comply with the state health director's executive order halting non-essential procedures. A similar warning letter was also sent to an Ohio urologist.

Bethany McCorkle, communications director for the Ohio Attorney General's Office, said in a statement that they sent the letters after the state health department received complaints about the facilities.

"This is not an abortion issue," she said, highlighting the letter sent to the urologist.

But two of the clinics -- Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio in Cincinnati and Preterm clinic in Cleveland -- disagreed, asserting that they would comply with the order but continue to provide abortions.

Iris Harvey and Kersha Deibel, the presidents of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, said in a statement Saturday that the PPSWO's attorney had "immediately responded" to the letter to convey that they were complying with the order, asserting that "under that order, Planned Parenthood can still continue providing essential procedures, including surgical abortion."

Preterm said Monday that it would remain open, "making individualized determinations to ensure each person gets the health care they need and that all health care providers across the state have access to the supplies needed during this pandemic," and had communicated to state officials that it was adhering to the terms of the order.

Women's Med Center in Dayton, the third clinic, did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

Mississippi, Texas and Ohio have all looked to restrict abortion rights and access in the last year. Federal judges blocked so-called heartbeat bills in Mississippi last May and in Ohio last July -- measures that would have banned abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, well before the 24-week standard set by the landmark Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide. In Texas, multiple cities have recently declared themselves "sanctuary cities for the unborn" and adopted unenforceable ordinances that claim to outlaw abortion within city limits.

At least 25 states have opted to heed a federal recommendation to delay elective surgical procedures, citing efforts to prevent unnecessary exposure and preserve protective resources.

White House coronavirus task force member and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma made the recommendation during a White House press briefing last week. Later that day, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists put out a statement calling for providers not to classify them as "elective and non-urgent," arguing that abortion is "a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible."

This story has been updated to include Mississippi's actions.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 59881

Reported Deaths: 1693
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5176106
DeSoto321527
Madison227253
Rankin211128
Harrison206732
Jackson187434
Jones174057
Forrest161551
Washington145732
Lauderdale132188
Lee119430
Neshoba119087
Lamar110512
Oktibbeha104434
Warren96425
Lowndes95830
Scott95117
Bolivar93332
Copiah90323
Sunflower90322
Panola89611
Lafayette8619
Holmes83546
Leflore82759
Pike81932
Grenada80520
Yazoo76411
Leake76225
Lincoln73539
Wayne73121
Pontotoc7167
Simpson70726
Monroe68750
Coahoma64810
Tate63822
Marion59418
Adams57825
Covington57611
Winston56615
Marshall5568
George5395
Newton51411
Union51313
Attala49524
Pearl River48036
Tallahatchie44610
Walthall43918
Chickasaw42719
Noxubee41410
Claiborne39913
Smith37413
Calhoun3738
Jasper3738
Clay36414
Alcorn3494
Prentiss3316
Hancock32414
Yalobusha31210
Lawrence3075
Itawamba30610
Tishomingo3063
Clarke29725
Tippah29412
Montgomery2913
Humphreys26511
Tunica2526
Carroll24511
Greene22611
Kemper22315
Quitman2201
Perry2137
Amite2045
Jefferson Davis1966
Webster19512
Jefferson1916
Wilkinson18312
Sharkey1801
Stone1463
Choctaw1254
Benton1240
Franklin1112
Issaquena211
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 85278

Reported Deaths: 1531
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson11465225
Mobile8466188
Montgomery6093141
Madison481725
Tuscaloosa385161
Baldwin309521
Shelby295431
Marshall287830
Unassigned256950
Lee245540
Morgan215614
Etowah188424
DeKalb165011
Elmore156237
Walker145063
Calhoun14389
Houston127512
Dallas126523
Russell11851
St. Clair116911
Franklin116520
Limestone115512
Cullman109011
Colbert105011
Lauderdale102812
Autauga98820
Escambia95215
Talladega86213
Chambers80738
Tallapoosa80178
Jackson7833
Dale76318
Butler74335
Blount7043
Coffee6955
Covington68420
Chilton6735
Pike6447
Barbour5545
Lowndes54524
Marion52824
Marengo50614
Clarke4799
Hale44825
Bullock43611
Winston42610
Perry4193
Wilcox4009
Randolph38610
Monroe3853
Conecuh36310
Sumter36118
Bibb3602
Pickens3599
Macon30412
Washington30411
Lawrence2980
Crenshaw2793
Choctaw27112
Greene23911
Henry2383
Cherokee2227
Geneva2160
Clay2005
Lamar1912
Fayette1675
Cleburne1121
Coosa892
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