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Texas and Ohio call abortions non-essential amid COVID-19 pandemic
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Texas and Ohio call abortions non-essential amid COVID-19 pandemic

Texas Governor Greg Abbott released an executive order banning all “non-essential and elective” surgeries to preserve medical supplies to fight COVID-19 on Sunday evening, and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an order on Monday declaring that abortions fell under the ban, excluding abortions performed to preserve the life of the mother. Ohio’s Department of Health issued an order similar to that of Abbott’s last week, which was followed by a statement from the Attorney General’s office declaring that abortions fell under the ban.

Paxton has said that violators of Abbott’s order will face either 180 days in jail or a $1,000 fine. Texas’ 22 abortion providers have not yet publicly responded to the order.

On Saturday, the Planned Parenthood division in Ohio declared that while they would comply with the order to redirect medical supplies, they would not limit their abortion services, as abortion is an essential and time sensitive service. The directive issued by Ohio’s Department of Health did not mention abortion services, and the Attorney General’s office has stated that it will pursue legal action against non-compliant clinics. The ACLU has accused the Attorney General of taking advantage of a public health crisis to push his own agenda forward. Leading reproductive health organizations, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have said that abortion is an essential and time sensitive health service. They have also consider it an essential part of comprehensive health care for women.

Similar orders limiting surgeries to only essential procedures have been announced in Washington and Massachusetts. According to officials from both states, the orders do not limit the availability of abortions.

For more on COVID-19, see our special coverage.