Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is calling on his state’s top health official to stop abortions in the state due to the coronavirus crisis, just days after Planned Parenthood sued several Texas state officials for a similar policy.
Cameron, who is widely considered to be a protege to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called on the acting secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) to declare that abortion falls under the state’s ban on elective medical procedures as it looks to conserve medical equipment and resources while pushing social distancing standards to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
“Kentucky’s current ban on elective medical procedures exists to further the mandated policy of social distancing and to help conserve medical resources for use in fighting COVID-19,” Cameron said in a statement Friday. “Acting Secretary [of CHFS Eric] Friedlander is on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am confident that he understands, better than anyone, the necessity of ending abortion procedures during this health crisis. His certification will immediately trigger action by our office to stop elective procedures during the pandemic.”
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The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky (ACLU-KY) and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK), two pro-choice organizations, jointly condemned Cameron’s effort to stop abortions in his state.
“Our doors remain open for care,” PPINK CEO Chris Charbonneau said. “Denying or delaying health care places an immediate burden on patients, their families, our communities, and the health system, and can have profound and lasting consequences.”
ACLU-KY staff attorney Heather Gatarek noted that medical organizations had discouraged governments from banning abortion in response to the coronavirus.
“As trusted health organizations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have made clear, politicians should not push ‘COVID-19 responses that cancel or delay abortion procedures,'” she said. “These national medical experts further explained that ‘abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care. It is also 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.'”
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Cameron’s plea with Friedlander comes after Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear recommended earlier this month that hospitals put elective procedures on hold during the coronavirus crisis. Friedlander then later mandated that doctors cease all “non-emergent, non-urgent in-person medical, surgical, dental, and any other healthcare practice or procedure[s].”
Pro-choice activists, however, have said that any move to put a halt on abortions during the coronavirus pandemic would jeopardize women’s rights and health.
“Abortion care is time-sensitive and essential health care that has a profound impact on a person’s health and life, which is why it is protected as a constitutional right. Texas is abusing the state’s emergency powers and we are filing suit today to stop it,” Nancy Northrop, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is joining Planned Parenthood in its suit against Texas, said in a statement on that state’s abortion ban.
Alexis McGill Johnson, the acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America said Wednesday that “anti-abortion activists nationwide are forcing a legal and political fight in the middle of a public health crisis.”
She continued: “Elected leaders are expending valuable time and resources exploiting a global pandemic to score political points instead of rallying to respond to this crisis. This will place lives in jeopardy.”
Cameron, however, said in his Friday statement that abortion is not essential unless the life of the mother is at risk and accused abortion providers of standing alone among medical providers who are putting a temporary hold on procedures that don’t have life-or-death consequences.
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“Abortion providers should join the thousands of other medical professionals across the state in ceasing elective procedures, unless the life of the mother is at risk, to protect the health of their patients and slow the spread of the coronavirus,” he said.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Wednesday slammed the Planned Parenthood suit as counterproductive to the coronavirus fight, mentioning the common refrain from pro-choice activists that abortion is a “choice.”
“It is unconscionable that abortion providers are fighting against the health of Texans and withholding desperately needed supplies and personal protective equipment in favor of a procedure that they refer to as a ‘choice,'” he said.