When Jessica Warner stumbled upon the opportunity to learn how to take mifepristone, a drug used for miscarriages and early abortions, she mentioned it in the May issue of a newsletter she wrote as coordinator for the Ohio Department of Health.
It was a shock that the state health department would take this position, Warner said.
“I want people to understand that politics takes precedence over health care, not science and evidence,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday, five days after she was fired. “And it seems like it’s more about people with no experience in healthcare making our decisions and even censoring us and silencing us.”
Most Common Abortion Procedures and When They Occur
Ohio Department of Health spokesman Ken Gordon said there is no policy outlawing the topic of abortion. He said that references to abortion as contrary to the mission of the Ministry of Health were based on State Law which went into effect in 2019, barring the department from contracting or joining “any organization that performs or promotes non-therapeutic abortions.”
Supervisor Warner was removed from office, and her boss’s boss resigned. Ohio Capital Magazinewho first reported the incident.
Consequences arrive as nation prepares for potential reversal Rowe vs. Wade, a landmark Supreme Court decision that secured the right to abortion in the United States. With a draft opinion indicating that judges have voted to overturn it, conservative states are rushing to enact bans and restrictions that have been unenforceable for nearly 50 years.
But the national right to abortion currently remains in place, raising questions about the state health department’s apparent anti-abortion stance. The Capital Journal reported that two bipartisan leaders of the Ohio House Health Committee, as well as lobbyists on both sides of the issue, were unaware that the agency had an official position.
Gordon of the Ohio Department of Health said Warner’s firing was “primarily based on recurring recalcitrant activity rather than any one topic or incident.” He added that a Human Resources department investigation found that her newsletter had not been editorially reviewed, as required by the department’s policy.
The newsletter was sent to approximately 400 subscribers, including local health departments and community organizations, most of whom were involved in the fight against HIV and sexually transmitted infections and public health. It included resources, program updates, and information about cases and rates of STIs in Ohio.
An investigative report provided to The Post by Warner and the Department of Health notes the contents of the newsletter, in addition to the abortion pill: references to National Masturbation Month; LGBT Elderly Day; International Day Against Homophobia; Day of pansexual and panromantic visibility; SLAM (Sexuality, Liberators and Motives); Black and blue: suicide in one’s own skin; Kink and Queer Communities; and National Condom Month.
Warner, hired in 2019, argued that the department cannot focus on reducing sexually transmitted infections without recognizing sexuality. She said research shows a more positive approach is more effective than focusing on risk, and noted that cases are on the rise in Ohio. syphilis and other STIs.
“My program would have given people the skills and resources to do this, and that was seen as debatable,” Warner, 36, said.
Much of the investigative report was devoted to the May 6 newsletter article on mifepristone. The newsletter stated that applications for the ExPAND Mifepristone training must be submitted by May 15th. The program is administered by the University of Chicago and is stated to be “designed to support the evidence-based use of mifepristone for early pregnancy loss (EPL) and/or abortion in primary care settings.” Warner said she included it because she thought the local health department might be interested in it.
Her supervisor said she should have known better.
“Everyone in the department should have known that any mention of abortion should not be discussed or included in the newsletter or other information about the department,” Chief Warner told Human Resources investigators, calling her “an advocate.”
Recent State Actions on Abortion Legislation
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed into law in 2019 a law banning six-week abortions, one of the nation’s most restrictive laws. A federal judge blocked it as unconstitutional according to Caviar.
“Ohio is a pro-life state.” DeWine told WLWT5 last month, adding that he would consider passing additional laws if Caviar overturned.
At the request of her boss, Warner sent out a “corrected” version two hours after the newsletter came out, this time with the mifepristone fragment removed. According to the Ohio Department of Health, the local health commissioner contacted a state health department official with questions about the matter, which initiated an investigation into whether the bulletin’s topics were properly vetted and relevant.
The report said that Warner “did not apologize” in an interview with HR. She told investigators that the health department was banned from working with Planned Parenthood “because it seems that ignorance and the opinions of politicians are getting in the way of ensuring access to essential health care for Ohioans.”
Asked if the topic of mifepristone conflicted with the mission of the State and Health Department, she replied: “Hopefully not, this is a public health issue and as a public health worker it would be counterproductive for the ODH mission not to support health initiatives. “.
She told The Post that she plans to fight the layoff.