House Republican leaders sent a letter Friday to Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz asking him to clarify the status of surgical abortions during the coronavirus pandemic.
A March 19 executive order issued by Walz called for the delay of all elective and non-essential surgeries, but didn’t make any mention of abortion providers. His March 25 shelter-in-place order, however, classified “reproductive health care” as an exempted critical sector.
“According to the Department of Health, elective abortions continue to take place, even as we hear from constituents about critical surgeries and medical treatments being postponed or canceled,” House Republican leaders said in their letter to Walz.
They asked the governor to “make clear” that his March 19 executive order applies to surgical abortions.
“Most abortions clearly fall under the category of ‘elective’ or ‘non-essential’ as those terms are described in the executive order,” said the letter. “The postponement of elective procedures is crucial both to minimize transmission of the coronavirus and to free up scarce medical resources like personal protective equipment.”
A spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) told The Star Tribune Tuesday that the “order does not apply to the full suite of family planning services.” Walz’s office deferred all questions on the matter to the MDH, meaning surgical abortions are allowed to proceed.
One reporter said on Twitter that hospitals are “canceling urgent surgeries such as cancer biopsies” while some patients are being asked or told “to delay chemotherapy.”
Frustrated by a “stay at home” order? Try being a cancer patient right now. It’s not just elective surgeries being canceled. Hospitals are also canceling urgent surgeries such as cancer biopsies, and some patients are being asked/told to delay chemotherapy. https://t.co/XZ7H44UmLj
— Colleen Kelly (@onecolleen) March 28, 2020
Republican governors across the country are prohibiting surgical abortions as elective or non-essential procedures. The intent of these orders is to preserve the nation’s stockpile of personal protective equipment, particularly N95 respirator masks.
In Iowa, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood sued Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds after she declared that surgical abortions are prohibited under an emergency order she issued.
“Abortion is an essential, time-sensitive medical procedure, as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology have recognized,” Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa executive director of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement. “We are in a critical moment for our state when we must come together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, not politicize health care services that are constitutionally protected.”
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