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AG warns health care industry to immediately halt unnecessary surgeries

Attorney General directs warning at abortion clinics, as well as other health care facilities.

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge warns all licensed health care professionals and all licensed health care facilities, including abortion providers, that pursuant the April 3, 2020 Directive on Elective Surgeries issued by the Department of Health, they must postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary.

“Arkansans must work together to combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Attorney General Rutledge.  “All medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortions, must be postponed until after this crisis has ended. Those who violate the Department of Health’s directive will be met with decisive action, and my office will forcefully defend the State officials involved in keeping Arkansans safe.”

Last Friday, the Department of Health issued a directive mandating that all surgeries and procedures that can be safely postponed to a further date be postponed while the COVID-19 emergency is ongoing. This prohibition applies throughout the State to all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary, including routine dental and eye visits, as well as most scheduled healthcare procedures such as orthopedic surgeries or any type of abortion that is not immediately medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.

The Department of Health, acting within its emergency powers under Governor Hutchinson’s March 11 emergency proclamation, issued this directive to preserve staff, personal protective equipment and patient care supplies to ensure staff and patient safety and to expand available hospital capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Postponing surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary will ensure the availability of hospital beds and personal protective equipment needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The failure of healthcare facilities to comply with the Department of Health’s directive will lead to administrative penalties, up to and including license suspension.

About Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

Leslie Carol Rutledge is the 56th Attorney General of Arkansas. Elected on November 4, 2014, and sworn in on January 13, 2015, she is the first woman and first Republican in Arkansas history to be elected as Attorney General. She was resoundingly re-elected on November 6, 2018. Since taking office, she has significantly increased the number of arrests and convictions against online predators who exploit children and con artists who steal taxpayer money through Social Security Disability and Medicaid fraud. Further, she has held Rutledge Roundtable meetings and Mobile Office hours in every county of the State each year, and launched a Military and Veterans Initiative. She has led efforts to roll back government regulations that hurt job creators, fight the opioid epidemic, teach internet safety, combat domestic violence and make the office the top law firm for Arkansans. Rutledge serves as co-chairs of the National Association of Attorneys General Veterans Affairs Committee, re-established and co-chairs the National Association of Attorneys General Committee on Agriculture and was the former Chairwoman of the National Association of Attorneys General Southern Region. As the former Chairwoman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, she remains active on the Executive Board.

A native of Batesville, she is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. Rutledge clerked for the Arkansas Court of Appeals, was Deputy Counsel for former Governor Mike Huckabee, served as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Lonoke County and was an Attorney at the Department of Human Services before serving as Counsel at the Republican National Committee. Rutledge and her husband, Boyce, have one daughter. The family has a home in Pulaski County and a farm in Crittenden County.

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