Abortion procedures, unless they are considered a medical emergency or “necessary to prevent serious health risks to the mother of the unborn child” are included in Governor Kevin Stitt’s order suspending elective surgeries.
The Stitt decree reissued on Tuesday includes abortions, routine dermatology, ophthalmology, dental and orthopedic procedures as elective procedures that cannot be performed at this time, the governor’s office said on Friday.
The clarification cited the growing demand for hospital beds and a shortage of personal protective equipment as the reason for the suspension of surgeries.
Abortion rights groups have strongly criticized Stitt’s order.
“We need to make sure our healthcare professionals, first responders and medical facilities have all the resources they need to fight COVID-19,” Stitt said in a press release. “I am committed to doing whatever is necessary to protect those on the front lines in the fight against this virus.”
In a statement opposing policies that limit, delay or prevent abortions in response to COVID-19, several national gynecological medical groups said abortion is “an essential component of comprehensive health care.” Delaying a procedure may increase the risks or avoid the procedure altogether, said the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other groups.
Stitt, who opposes abortion, said he believes life begins with conception. As a running gubernatorial candidate, Stitt vowed to sign every piece of anti-abortion legislation that came to his office.
In a guide for Oklahoma women seeking abortion resources, the Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice rejected Stitt’s announcement on Friday, saying abortions are essential care due to the sensitive nature the length of the procedure and the “life-changing impact” of denial of care.
“We know COVID19 is a very serious disease and frontline healthcare workers are putting their lives on the line, with limited access to personal protective equipment to keep Oklahomans safe. We must also stress that abortion care will always be an essential and extremely urgent medical procedure. “
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which has already challenged several of Oklahoma’s abortion laws in court, is working with other reproductive rights groups to sue the state of Texas for a ban on abortion. abortion linked to coronavirus.
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue has criticized attempts to restrict abortions during the current health crisis.
“The medical community is clear and unified: abortion care is essential and urgent health care,” she said. “They should be allowed to continue their work based on medicine and not on arbitrary policy.”
Stitt’s executive order implements a statewide moratorium on elective surgeries and minor medical procedures until April 7.