Federal Judge Halts State From Restricting Abortions With Coronavirus Order

Mar 31, 2020

A federal judge has temporarily blocked the state from using the coronavirus order that bans elective, non-essential surgeries to stop the six clinics in Ohio that offer surgical abortions from performing those procedures.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett means for the next 14 days, Ohio officials cannot use the COVID19 order barring elective surgery to stop or restrict surgical abortions. Just hours before Barrett's ruling, the ACLU of Ohio, Planned Parenthood Federation and others filed the suit, seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from taking actions against the abortion facilities.

Jessie Hill, an attorney representing the ACLU, said the state's coronavirus order on elective surgery is vague.

“We have been unable to get assurances from the Ohio Department of Health that what we are doing is in compliance with the policy and we are concerned about the lack of clarity," Hill said.

In recent days, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost had ordered the facilities to close, saying they were violating the coronavirus order. In a written statement, Yost now says the state will take the course of legal action that will most quickly achieve that goal.

In his ruling, Judge Barrett said this decision to have a surgical abortion is up to the woman's doctor and that "women possess a fundamental constitutional right of access to abortions." Barrett could issue a temporary injunction at some point in the future that would continue to keep the state from restricting abortions.