Texas, Ohio order clinics to halt abortion procedures amid coronavirus

Texas on Monday ordered a halt on surgical abortion procedures because of the growing coronavirus epidemic, two days after officials in Ohio issued a similar order.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office said in a statement said that abortion providers were among the licensed health care professionals and facilities that would have to cease procedures deemed "not immediately medically necessary" following an executive order issued Saturday by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

“We must work together as Texans to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that our health care professionals and facilities have all the resources they need to fight the virus at this time,” said Paxton said. "No one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers. Those who violate the governor’s order will be met with the full force of the law."

Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to $1,000 or 180 days in jail.

Planned Parenthood, which operates some of the state's abortion-providing health clinics, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It was not clear whether Texas clinics would comply with the order.

Texas follows Ohio in ordering the temporary prohibition of surgical abortions as states limit operations they deem elective or nonessential.

On Saturday, Ohio Attorney General David Yost sent his two of the state's clinics a letter ordering them to stop surgical abortions immediately in an effort to preserve personal protective equipment.

"On behalf of the Department, you and your facility are ordered to immediately stop performing non-essential and elective surgical abortions," each letter states, NBC4 in Columbus reported. "Non-essential surgical abortions are those that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient."

The letters were sent to clinics in Dayton and Cincinnati.

The latter clinic, Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, said in a statement that it could comply with the Ohio Department of Health's order regarding PPE while still "providing essential procedures, including surgical abortions."

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland criticized officials for "exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to further their agenda to close Ohio’s abortion clinics."

"Abortion care is a time-sensitive medical situation that cannot be significantly delayed without profound consequences," she said, adding. "Ohio’s elected officials should not stand between patients and their doctors."