Ohio Department of Health fires employee for mentioning abortion pill in newsletter

Placeholder while loading article actions

When she came across a training opportunity on mifepristone, a drug used in miscarriages and early abortions, Jessica Warner mentioned it in the May edition of the newsletter she compiled as coordinator at Ohio Department of Health.

An hour after pressing send, her supervisor called. It was the start of an ordeal that culminated in the dismissal of Warner, coordinator of training on sexually transmitted infections and viral hepatitis, and the punishment of two other employees. An investigative report prepared by Human Resources described abortion topics as “prohibited,” adding that “the mifepristone article in the newsletter is in direct conflict with the agency’s mission and embarrasses the ODH”. He also said the topic was “contrary” to the mission of the state.

For a state health department to take such a stance, Warner said, came as a shock.

“I want people to understand how it seems politics is taking over health care, and it’s less about science and evidence,” she said in an interview with Washington. Post on Wednesday, five days after he was fired. “And it seems more like it’s people who have no health care experience making our decisions and even censoring and silencing us.”

The most common abortion procedures and when they occur

Ohio Department of Health spokesman Ken Gordon said there was no policy banning abortion-related topics. He said references to abortion as conflicting with the health department’s mission are based on a State Law which took effect in 2019, prohibiting the department from contracting or affiliating with “any entity that performs or promotes non-therapeutic abortions.”

Warner’s supervisor received a suspension and his supervisor’s supervisor resigned, according to the Ohio Capital Journalwho was the first to report the incident.

The fallout comes as the nation braces for the potential reversal of Roe vs. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that enshrined the right to abortion in the United States. With a draft notice saying judges voted to overturn it, conservative states are racing to enact bans and restrictions that have been unenforceable for nearly 50 years.

But the national abortion right currently remains in place, raising questions about the state health department‘s apparent anti-abortion stance. The Capital Journal reported that two bipartisan leaders on the Ohio House Health Committee, as well as lobbyists on both sides of the issue, were unaware the agency had a formal position.

Gordon said Warner’s dismissal was “primarily based on a pattern of repeated insubordinate activity rather than a single topic or incident”. He added that the HR investigation revealed that his newsletter had not undergone editorial review, as required by departmental policy.

The newsletter was sent to approximately 400 subscribers, including local health departments and community organizations, most of whom were involved in HIV and sexually transmitted infection work and public health. It included resources, program updates, and information about STI cases and rates in Ohio.

The investigative report, shared with The Post by Warner and the Health Department, flagged the newsletter’s content beyond the abortion pill: mentions of National Masturbation Month; LGBT Seniors Day; International Day Against Homophobia; Day of pansexual and panromantic visibility; SLAM (Sexuality, Liberators and Movers); and event titled “Black and Blue: Suicide in our own leather, kink and queer communities”; and National Condom Month.

Warner, hired in 2019, argued the department could not focus on reducing sexually transmitted infections without acknowledging sexuality. She said research shows a more positive approach is more effective than a focus on risk, and noted that Ohio is seeing an increase in cases of syphilis and other STIs.

“My program would have given people skills and resources for this, and it was seen as controversial,” Warner, 36, said.

Much of the investigative report focused on the May 6 newsletter article on mifepristone. The newsletter said applications were due May 15 for the training, called ExPAND Mifepristone. The program is run by the University of Chicago and advertised as being “developed 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 local health department personnel might be interested.

Her supervisor said she should have known better.

“Everyone on the unit should have known that any reference to abortions should not be discussed or included in the newsletter or other unit information,” Warner’s supervisor told HR investigators. , describing her as “a lawyer”.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the legality of abortion will be left to the states. Some fear that access to certain types of contraception is next. (Video: Julie Yoon, Hadley Green, Sarah Hashemi/The Washington Post)

The latest action on state abortion laws

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (right) signed a bill in 2019 banning abortions at six weeks pregnant – one of the most restrictive laws in the country. A federal judge blocked it as unconstitutional under deer.

“Ohio is a pro-life state” DeWine told WLWT5 last month, adding that he would consider passing other laws if deer is overthrown.

At the request of his supervisor, Warner sent a “corrected” version two hours after the newsletter was released, this one with the mifepristone piece removed. According to the Ohio Department of Health, a local health commissioner contacted a staff member from the state health department to ask about it, prompting an investigation to find out if newsletter topics were properly vetted and appropriate.

Warner was “unapologetic” when questioned by HR, according to the report. She told investigators that the health department was barred from working with Planned Parenthood “because it appears that ignorance and the opinions of politicians are hindering access to needed health care for people in the Ohio”.

When asked if the subject of mifepristone was against the mission of the state and the health department, she replied, “I hope not, it’s a public health problem. and as public health workers, it would be counterproductive to the ODH mission not to support health care initiatives. .”

She told the Post that she plans to fight her dismissal.

Comments are closed.