Reproductive Freedom Press Release

03.30.20

Ohio Abortion Providers File Emergency Lawsuit to Preserve Essential Abortion Procedures During Pandemic

Anti-abortion activists created dangerous political distraction amidst COVID-19 pandemic to cut off abortion access
Criminal Justice

COLUMBUS — Today, abortion providers in Ohio, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of Ohio, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America along with local Ohio lawyers, took emergency legal action to ensure that they can remain open to provide time-sensitive, essential abortion care to patients.

The legal action seeks immediate relief to allow clinics to continue providing access to critical, time-sensitive abortion services during the COVID-19 pandemic. For over a week, while health centers cared for patients, anti-abortion activists harassed state officials, taking advantage of a public health crisis to push their political agenda. The Ohio Department of Health caved to these fringe groups, threatening access to abortion. Now Preterm, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, Women’s Med Group Professional Corporation, and Northeast Ohio Women’s Center are going to court to ensure access to critical, time-sensitive care.

Statement from Elizabeth Watson, staff attorney, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project: Ohio’s politically motivated attack on abortion providers is not grounded in science or public health. As leading medical groups have recognized, abortion is essential and time-sensitive health care. We hope the court will recognize the urgency of this matter and grant relief for our clients, so that they can continue the vital work of providing care to their communities.”

Statement from Jessie Hill, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Ohio:“We are in unprecedented times of crisis, and everyone needs to ensure that people’s health and safety is protected. This includes access to time-sensitive, essential abortion care.  The Ohio government should not use this crisis as an excuse to target abortion clinics and attempt to deny Ohioans their abortion rights. We feel confident the law is on our side and we will do everything in our power to keep the clinics open.”

Statement from Chrisse France, executive director, Preterm: “Restricting access to time-sensitive healthcare during a national crisis is unconscionable. It is clear that abortion is a time-sensitive, essential procedure both by its nature and under the order put in place by the Ohio Department of Health. It is imperative for each pregnant person to get the care they know is best for them on the timeline that is decided by them and the doctor they trust. Preterm is committed to centering the needs of our patients and fighting for their access to care when they need it most.”

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:“We cannot let anti-abortion activists dictate public health policy. A global pandemic is not an excuse to attack essential, time-sensitive medical procedures like abortion. These political distractions cost valuable time and resources that our state and federal officials cannot afford to waste. Abortion is essential and patients who need this care cannot wait. This is what it’s come down to: court battles just so doctors and nurses can care for patients during a public health crisis. Anti-abortion activists have gone too far.”

Statement from Iris Harvey and Kersha Deibel, presidents and CEOs, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region:“Abortion is a time-sensitive medical procedure. We know our patients who need essential health care cannot wait. Planned Parenthood is here with every person who needs us. While a court battle is the last thing we want, we know it is necessary to ensure patients can continue accessing essential health care without delay. “Planned Parenthood has worked with the Ohio Department of Health to comply with its order while providing essential abortion services. This lawsuit is not about health care. It’s the result of anti-abortion special interest groups who put politics before an entire community’s health and safety, which is dangerous, reckless, and unforgivable. We will do everything we can to ensure our doors remain open for the patients who need essential health care.”

Experts including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology agree that abortion is an essential, time-sensitive procedure that cannot be delayed. The groups note that delaying this care could “profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.” Delays or additional barriers to care can make it more difficult or even impossible for patients to access safe, legal abortion. For many people of color, who have always faced systemic barriers to health care, adding unnecessary restrictions on abortion access poses dangerous risks.

Last week, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the Lawyering Project filed suit against Texas Gov. Abbott’s administration to ensure abortion remains accessible in Texas.

The plaintiff abortion providers in Ohio are represented by attorneys from the ACLU, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU of Ohio, and the Cincinnati firm Gerhardstein & Branch Co. LLP. 

A copy of the emergency motion is available.

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