PSA: State Officials Are Using Coronavirus to Restrict Your Abortion Access

As coronavirus continues to put a strain on the nation’s healthcare system while uncovering many of its failings, anti-choice activists and officials are taking advantage of the ongoing health crisis to restrict access to abortions.

Because of increasing demands, many medical providers have cut back on non-essential procedures and appointments. That means patients must hold off on cosmetic procedures, routine dental cleanings, and eye exams. Anything that is considered “elective” is being put on the backburner until the pandemic is more manageable. But now, some state officials are labeling abortions as “non-essential” for a person’s wellbeing and are actively trying to prevent patients from receiving this healthcare.

Here’s what you need to know about how officials are taking advantage of coronavirus to restrict procedural and medical abortions.

Which States Are Trying to Block Abortion Access?

In the past month, anti-choice providers and select states like Mississippi, Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Texas have—on some level—tried to declare abortions non-essential and merely “social solutions” that should be postponed for an indefinite amount of time or canceled outright. According to The LA Times, some states “went a step further, prohibiting abortion, unless to protect the life or health of the woman.”

In addition to blocking in-office visits, some officials want to bar patients from using “telehealth” and online medical appointments to receive abortion-related prescriptions. New York Attorney General Letitia James and 20 other law-enforcement officials have urged the Food and Drug Administration to allow more flexibility in this difficult situation, saying, “control over one’s reproductive freedom should not be limited to those able to leave their homes as we battle the coronavirus.”

Are There Punitive Measures?

Though some of these bans have thankfully been countered by federal courts, Texas and Oklahoma continue to turn away patients in need of abortions. Presently, licensed health facilities in Texas face a $1,000 fine or a max of 180 days in jail if they provide this care to their patients. Medical counselors are being forced to advise their patients to make the trip to New Mexico or Kansas to receive care.

In a statement to NPR, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists attorney Skye Perryman warned, “It is an incredibly concerning day when states would impose criminal penalties on physicians and other clinicians that are seeking to deliver care, and that is one of the main concerns that the medical community has about these actions.”

A hearing on Oklahoma’s restrictions is scheduled for this afternoon and NPR suggested this issue could make its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

How Can I Help?

Defeating and worrisome as this may feel, if you want to help people secure access to safe abortions, there are actions you can take from the safety of your own home. Call your representatives. (If you don’t have their number on speed dial, you can find all of their contact info here.) Sign Planned Parenthood’s petition declaring that abortion is essential—even in this crisis—and donate to organizations fighting for reproductive freedom like the Center for Reproductive Rights, Power to Decide, and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

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