As state governments in Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, and other states attempt to eliminate abortion access by labeling abortion as “non-essential” health care amid the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations representing reproductive health care providers, including the Abortion Care Network, the National Abortion Federation, Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Physicians for Reproductive Health, and Planned Parenthood released the following statement:
“As health care clinics and systems across the country work to care for those with the coronavirus, questions have arisen about what is, and what is not, deemed ‘essential’ health care.
“Today, we want to make it abundantly clear that abortion is not only health care; it is time-sensitive, essential health care — and must remain so during this public health crisis.
“We, the national organizations representing the thousands of health center staff – physicians, nurses, medical assistants, doulas, and front line staff – around the country making abortion care possible, know that abortion care is essential health care. ACOG, alongside seven other medical societies, agrees that patients seeking abortion need timely access to care. Unnecessary delays should never be imposed by politicians.
“We have also seen that the numerous medically unjustified restrictions on abortion in place in many states have become even more dangerous and harmful in a time of national crisis. Requiring multiple, unnecessary visits to clinics means subjecting patients and providers to the risks of additional exposures. Waiting periods when child care is limited due to the pandemic means abortion is even harder to access. Lack of insurance coverage when people are losing jobs and income risks putting abortion care out of reach. Barring Advanced Practice Clinicians (including Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Midwives, and Physician Assistants) from providing abortion care needlessly exacerbates the already dire provider shortages. We urge policy makers to lift burdensome and unnecessary restrictions now.
“We call on policymakers across the country to make telemedicine more available, including for abortion care. Research shows us that medication abortion by telemedicine is as safe as in-person care. Bans on telemedicine impose unnecessary barriers for patients trying to get safe, timely health care. Telemedicine will help alleviate the risks of spreading infection to their family and community by allowing patients to reduce travel and time spent in medical facilities.
“We call for anti-abortion protestors to do their part in keeping their communities safe by staying home. You are posing a health risk to yourselves, your loved ones, to our patients, and to health care providers by continuing to gather and harass patients and staff outside of clinics while we endure this pandemic.
“If patients self-manage their own abortions in this time, or any other time, they should not be arrested, prosecuted, or otherwise criminalized for making a personal decision about their body, their families, and their futures.
“We urge all levels of government to work toward protecting health care workers at this time. Health care providers across the spectrum of care, including reproductive health care, need access to personal protective equipment and coronavirus testing. It is unconscionable for officials to use this crisis to limit access to abortion care when there are urgent, unmet needs for both providers and patients that demand their attention.
“Medically unnecessary restrictions, groups of protestors, and politically-motivated mandates to block patients from necessary abortion care do not advance safety and health for anyone. This is the time for those who believe in access to comprehensive reproductive health care to come together. The time is now.”
ABORTION CARE NETWORK
NATIONAL ABORTION FEDERATION
NURSES FOR SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH
PHYSICIANS FOR REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH
PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA