What you should know about abortion access during COVID-19

Abortion is health care, and it’s urgent health care – the longer one is forced to wait to obtain an abortion, the more difficult the procedure will be to get, until it’s impossible altogether and results in forced birth. Anti-choice politicians and activists know this, which is why, right now, when we should be dedicating resources to stopping the spread of COVID-19 and helping the most vulnerable, they’re putting their energy into limiting abortion access (and still protesting at clinics where abortion care is provided, instead of following the stay at home/social distancing directives.)

These attempts at blocking access to abortion are done under the guise that abortion providers are using resources that health care providers need for treating COVID-19 (no), especially when we talk about self-managed abortions, which are extremely safe, can be done at home and for the most part do not require any medical intervention. While these bans come with an expiration dates, don’t be fooled – we know we’re weeks away from the peak of COVID-19 pandemic, and these dates will change, further distancing folks from accessing  abortion care that can’t wait. 

Let’s take a look at what’s happening. 

  • In Texas,  the news around abortion access and COVID-19 is in constant flux, which is exhausting for both providers and abortion seekers. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on March 31st that the state was allowed to ban abortion immediately in nearly all cases during the pandemic, overturning a decision that was made the day before, stating that blocking abortion care would harm patients. We’re waiting for a decision on the appeal, but as of now, abortion is banned in Texas. 
  • On March 27th, Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt issued an executive order barring elective surgeries in the state until April 7th. This order includes abortion. In case you were wondering, the definition of an elective surgery is one that doesn’t involve a medical emergency, so it can be scheduled in advance. As we mentioned up top, abortion is a time sensitive procedure. If you’re 10 weeks pregnant right now, waiting another week will place one perilously close to the end of the first trimester. Oklahoma’s existing abortion laws include a 72 hour waiting period, and a parental consent law, so in addition to negotiating how to pay for an abortion, people seeking abortion care also have to contend with getting to and from the clinic, childcare, and potentially a judicial bypass. There’s currently a lawsuit against the Oklahoma decision, as there also is in Iowa and Alabama, and Ohio. 
  • Anti-choice forces in Florida have attempted to halt abortion care, but as of now, the decision as to whether or not to perform abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic is up to one’s doctor. 
  • In Mississippi, there is one clinic remaining that provides abortion care, and the “legality” of that clinic being able to continue to operate during the pandemic is being evaluated. 
  • In Louisiana (where the future of abortion access is being evaluated by the Supreme Court), lawmakers are arguing that abortion services should not be happening during COVID-19. This is contested by the Louisiana Department of Health, who has stated that there are actually no prohibitions around abortion care right now, and the decision to perform it is up to doctors.
  • In Ohio, the ACLU has filed a brief in order to stop an order by the attorney general to stop abortion care in the state during COVID-19’s spread. Abortion care continues as of now. 

What you can do: 

  • Donate to an abortion fund and/or signal boost abortion funds if money is scary and weird for you.
  • If you live in a state that hasn’t declared abortion an essential medical procedure during COVID-19, call your governor’s office and urge them to do so.
  • Take time to educate yourself about abortion care (What does abortion involve? Who gets abortions? What’s self-managed abortion?), and abortion stigma (What do you believe about abortions and people who have them that’s not true? Where do these ideas come from?).  Rewire.news and their podcast Boom!Lawyered are great resources.

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