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COVID-19 & Abortion

By: Lilith Turman

“These emergency abortion bans are an abuse of power and they are a part of a long-term effect to use sham justifications to shut down clinics and make an end-run around Roe vs. Wade,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

As of April 2020 several states have begun using the pandemic of COVID-19 as way to justify banning abortions. Texas, Alabama, and Ohio are at the forefront; however, more states are beginning to follow their illegal anti-choice orders. Jennifer Dalven, director of the reproductive freedom project at the ACLU, points out “[I]t’s not surprising that the states that are now using the Covid crisis to stop people from getting abortion care are the very same states that have a history of passing laws to ban abortion or using sham rationales to shut down clinics.” The states in question are using the current vulnerability of the U.S for their own agenda.

Abortions aren’t the only medical procedures states are trying to halt. All medical procedures deemed nonessential are being stopped. The reason government officials claim for the ban on these procedures is to conserve PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), such as face masks and gloves.  Abortions should not be considered a nonessential procedure.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that, “Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care.” Therefore, abortions should remain an accessible procedure during this troubling time. The ACOG also makes clear that delaying and prohibiting abortions for days and weeks could increase the risks involved. The ACOG further explains the essential nature of access to timely abortions by saying, “[C]onsequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impact a person's life, health, and well-being.” 

These states attempting to ban abortions are spreading the major misconception that abortions are  “wasteful” or an “over use” of medical supplies and hospital space. Abortions are reported to only require one pair of gloves and some early abortions require nothing but a pill, but being forced to continue a pregnancy will require the use of much more PPE, for check-ups and ultrasounds. Not to mention, very few abortions actually take place in hospitals and are not to blame for a shortage of hospital beds. Banning abortions at this time could lead to more dangerous at-home abortions, which could lead to major health complications and require the use of more medical equipment. By banning abortions, many people may travel out-of-state for abortion care and services. This will increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 by traveling.

  On top of this, states' orders violate a Supreme Court's rulings. In Roe Vs. Wade, the Court ruled that the Constitution protects a person’s right to an abortion and that states cannot ban abortion before a fetus is viable outside of the womb. Not only is it blatantly obvious that abortions are essential and they are not a procedure that highly demands PPE, it is also simply unconstitutional to ban abortions.

A group of civil rights organizations have come forward to sue these states and hopefully bring an end to their unconstitutional anti-choice actions. These groups include: Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Lawyering Project. They hope to protect their patients’ rights to abortion during this pandemic. 

Shortly after the first moves to ban abortions were made in Texas, Alabama and Ohio, they were quickly suspended by federal judges, who made a temporal halt to all state executive orders to ban access to abortion due to COVID-19. Alexis McGill Johnson, current president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, stated, “Let this swift ruling send a clear message to politicians and anti-abortion activists in other states.” She further stated, “Exploiting a global pandemic to ban abortions is illegal,” in response to the quick overturn of the states’ anti-choice legislation. However, following the federal judges’ block, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Texas to keep their ban temporarily. 

Many more states are attempting to follow their lead. States like Indiana, Iowa and Oklahoma are all making strides towards abortion bans, and federal judges continue to block their agendas. However, if these states make motions similar to Texas, the U.S. could be looking at a massive abortion ban in the near future. 

Check your local news to see if anti-choice action is being taken in your state. Do not hesitate to call your state officials and make it clear that banning abortion is illegal and does not represent your state.

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