Wednesday, March 25, 2020

States try to use emergency powers to prohibit abortions

March 24, 2020 (Rewire.News): State Officials Try to End Legal Abortion During COVID-19 Crisis, by Dennis Carter:

As the country struggles to ensure that there are adequate health facilities to care for coronavirus patients suffering from acute symptoms, states have begun to prohibit non-urgent procedures. Some states are trying to use these new restrictions to prohibit abortions.

Last week, Ohio's Attorney General wrote a letter to Ohio abortion clinics ordering them to cease "all non-essential and elective surgical abortions" pursuant to a health department order that "non-essential and elective" surgeries be cancelled.  And on Monday, Texas's Attorney General stated that an Executive Order directing postponement of surgeries and procedures "not immediately necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would at risk of serious adverse medical consequences or death"  included "any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life and health of the mother."

While officials from Texas and Ohio claim that the restrictions are needed because of the increased demand for hospital beds and protective medical equipment, the restrictions run counter to the opinions of medical professionals. On March 18, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other leading medical organizations issued a statement recommending that abortion be excluded from the list of procedures that could be postponed. The statement notes that most abortion care is delivered in outpatient settings. Indeed because most abortions occur at specialized abortion clinics, for the most part, cancelling abortions will not free up beds in hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers. 

The ACOG statement goes on to say that "To the extent that hospital systems or ambulatory surgical facilities are categorizing procedures that can be delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic, abortion should not be categorized as such a procedure." In addition to being an "essential component of comprehensive health care," abortion is also "a time-sensitive service" for which a delay of several weeks could render the procedure inaccessible.

The Texas and Ohio clinics have taken the position that all abortions are essential procedures and that they are taking all other required steps to reduce the use of personal protective medical equipment. For now these clinics remain open for patients.

Rewire.News is planning to provide updates on abortion access as states unveil their COVID-19 policies.

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