As people shelter in place during the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of jokes are being made about the baby boom that will be coming in 9 months. That’s understandable. In times where we’re very concerned about death, joking is necessary and the idea of new life is something that can make people feel much more hopeful.
It gets less lighthearted when you realize that many of those pregnancies will not be wanted. But in a time when medical clinics, hospitals, and doctors are already compromised by an influx of coronavirus-afflicted patients, women are bound to have a hard time gaining access to standard reproductive healthcare — and that’s just fine with some lawmakers.
Republicans are using this pandemic as an excuse to, among other things, bar women from reproductive choice. As medical facilities in many states cease performing what are termed inessential procedures (say, for instance, cosmetic surgery) in order to conserve supplies, some members of the GOP are attempting to exploit the situation and effectively ban abortion.
In Ohio, the Deputy Attorney General John Fulkerson wrote to clinics: “You and your facility are ordered to immediately stop performing non-essential and elective surgical abortions.” If you’re wondering what non-essential abortions are, his letter clarified: “Non-essential surgical abortions are those that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient.”
Fulkerson perhaps does not realize that pregnancy and childbirth always endanger women’s health. Every day, 830 women die due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. The U.S.’s maternal mortality rate is also notably bad — we rank 55th in world, only slightly ahead of Ukraine.  As our hospitals and their staff become increasingly overwhelmed with coronavirus patients — a virtual inevitability at this point — it seems unlikely our maternal mortality rate will improve. If Fulkerson and his ilk were actually pro-life, they’d be concerned about the fact that women keep dying as a result of pregnancy — but then, I suppose fetuses don’t use such shrill unpleasant voices as they demand their basic rights to healthcare.
Beyond the inherent misogyny at play, Republicans are also showing an inability to grasp what is and what isn’t an essential medical procedure. As Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, a director at Planned Parenthood notes, “Obviously, abortion is an essential service because it is time sensitive in nature.”
Right. If you do not get an abortion, you may well get a baby. Apparently childbirth is not something that people are worried about overwhelming hospitals, in spite of the fact that 21 percent of births in the U.S. are now C-sections, a surgical procedure. Apparently medical professionals being overwhelmed is fine, as long as they’re engaging in childbirth and not abortion.
Fortunately, Planned Parenthood Ohio has issued a statement claiming that, “Planned Parenthood can still continue performing essential procedures, including surgical abortion.”
At least for now.
But Ohio’s de facto abortion ban is  just one of what will doubtless be many attempts to use this disaster as a way to scale back women’s rights. Other states are already following Ohio’s lead.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ordered a ban on abortions in the state unless the life of the mother is threatened, and people who provide abortions can face up to 180 days in jail. When this is over, they may well just decide not to change that rule back, on the presumed basis that it will be working so well for people — at least, people who are not in need of abortions.
In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan was asked if abortion was considered an inessential procedure, and he replied, “They’ve got to free up beds for the things that are needed to save people’s lives.” This despite the fact that abortions often do save the lives of the women seeking them.
On a more national scale, nearly as soon as this crisis began, Republicans have attempted to put anti-choice language into bills designed to address hardship following the COVID-19 outbreak, and allow for increased testing.Treating an abortion as though it is a frivolous procedure akin to deciding to a face lift and not something absolutely necessary is absurd.
All of this is happening at what is already a terrible time for many vulnerable women.
Mandatory waiting periods, which entail traveling for hours and staying overnight in many states where abortion clinics are difficult to access, make it nearly impossible to have an abortion at a time when we’re supposed to “shelter in place.” Groups like the Haven Coalition in New York, and the Midwest Access Coalition, which typically provide places for those traveling far distances for abortions to stay may find it far harder to do so as people are encouraged to avoid strangers, or, at least, not let them sleep over in their apartments.
And if women can’t access abortions, the reprecussions on their lives can be severe.
Studies have shown that, while having an abortion doesn’t result in harm to women’s mental health, being denied one does. It leads to a spike in issues like anxiety and depression.
And for women unable to access and abortion, that anxiety is often justified. Women comprise the majority of minimum wage earners in virtually every state. They’re likely to work in industries that are especially hard hard as we’re called to self isolate — for instance, 93 percent of domestic workers are women. An unwanted pregnancy is an added financial hardship that many women will not be able to tolerate right now. And, having an unwanted child after being denied an abortion quadruples the odds a mother and her new child will be forced to live below the poverty line. That seems like a terribly unfair hardship to inflict on women in what is likely to be a global recession.
Strange that many members of the GOP, who seem to feel it’s quite acceptable to sacrifice sentient human beings to keep the cruise ship industry afloat, don’t seem especially moved by female hardship. Perhaps if we more closely resembled a Carnival ship they’d take our needs more seriously.
But then, some people will say, why are those women having sex if they don’t want to get pregnant? First off, because sex is a pleasurable activity. Though, I have always sensed that the men who ask this question have never given a woman enough pleasure to recognize it as such. And, on the topic of terrible men, many women are now trapped in abusive situations. Domestic violence hotlines in places like Portland claim that the number of calls they receive has doubled since the Coronavirus outbreak began. If women are isolated with abusive men who do not respect their bodily autonomy, it will very likely result in some unwanted pregnancies.
If that doesn’t seem like something that’s important to focus on right now — well, I’d say that forcing women to bring unwanted children into the world in a time when they already have plenty of causes for stress and despair seems downright inhumane. To say that it’s not essential is to say that women’s wellbeing is inessential. And if we make the determination to dismiss women’s wellbeing now, what’s to say we’ll ever go back?
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the NHS website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.

Texas will again be allowed to implement its temporary ban on abortion, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday afternoon. Per the order, any abortion “not medically necessary to preserve the life or health” of the patient must be halted as part of the state’s directive suspending “non-essential” medical procedures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The ban was briefly lifted on Monday evening when a lower court ruled the suspension of abortion services was unconstitutional and in violation of Supreme Court precedent, including Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

“I thank the court for their immediate and careful attention to the health and safety needs of Texans suffering from the spread of COVID-19,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a statement Tuesday. “The temporary stay ordered this afternoon justly prioritizes supplies and personal protective equipment for the medical professionals in need.”

Texas is among five states facing legal battles over restricting abortion access during the coronavirus pandemic. In a sweep of legal filings Monday, a coalition of abortion rights groups challenged similar bans in Alabama, Iowa, Ohio and Oklahoma. So far, judges have ordered bans in Alabama and Ohio to be lifted.

In Texas, Paxton ordered all abortion services immediately halted last week, with the limited exception of those that are “necessary to preserve the life or health” of the patient, interpreting Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order that banned “non-essential” medical procedures to include abortion services.

In a matter of days, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Lawyering Project filed a joint complaint, asking a federal court for an immediate temporary restraining order, calling the directive “unconstitutional.”

Since Paxton’s order, hundreds of patients have been unable to receive an abortion in the state, forcing some to travel to neighboring states despite a stay-at-home order. At the time of publication, the Center for Reproductive Rights was calling providers in the state, notifying them that their brief window to offer abortion services had closed.

“The Fifth Circuit is escalating the fear and confusion women seeking abortion in Texas are already experiencing,” said Nancy Northup, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement shared with CBS News on Tuesday afternoon. “The trial court found just yesterday that women will suffer irreparable harm if clinics are closed. We will continue fighting this legal battle against Texas’ abuse of emergency powers.”

In Tuesday’s ruling, three federal judges — Judge James L. Dennis, Judge Kyle Duncan and Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod — issued a temporary stay, allowing the ban on abortion to remain in place.

Judge Dennis, a Clinton appointee, dissented: “A federal judge has already concluded that irreparable harm would flow from allowing the Executive Order to prohibit abortions during this critical time,” Dennis wrote. Judge Duncan was appointed by President Donald Trump and Judge Elrod by former President George W. Bush.

The groups challenging Texas’ suspension of abortion access have until Wednesday morning to file a response.

“Texans are losing their jobs, they are struggling to put food on the table, they can’t get COVID-19 testing — meanwhile indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is doubling down on banning abortion,” Aimee Arrambide, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas executive director, said in a statement shared with CBS News on Tuesday afternoon. “Let’s be clear, it is never the right time to play politics, but doing so in the wake of COVID-19 is a despicable low.”

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/texas-abortion-halted-united-states-court-of-appeals-fifth-circuit/?fbclid=IwAR04o991-cu6EfeY37IqwWo1wJ4HUpE9XJZPvofJF5b6ar8LH9VykQZsfwQ

Antiabortion politicians in states across the country are using the COVID-19 pandemic to block access to abortion—arguing abortion is not essential health care and supporting limitations in the interest of conserving personal protective equipment for COVID-19 cases.

Medical experts, however, are coming to the exact opposite conclusion.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and seven other medical organizations issued a statement last week declaring that abortion is time-sensitive, essential health care and that lack of access may “profoundly impact a person’s life, health and well-being.”

In fact, physicians are calling for more and easier access to abortion, not less.

“The arguments attempting to close clinics based on conserving personal protective equipment (PPE) are not based in evidence. What we should be doing is expanding access to telemedicine provision of abortion during this pandemic,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman, an OB/GYN, abortion provider, and director of the University of California, San Francisco’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH).

What is Telemedicine Abortion?

Telemedicine abortion combines medication abortion—which uses pills to end a pregnancy—and telemedicine—which allows health providers to supervise the use of abortion pills via videoconferencing or telephone consultations.

Many people choose medication abortion because it is less invasive and more private than surgical abortion.

Planned Parenthood’s Fiona Tubmen-Scovack (left) and Dr. Jill Meadows demonstrate telemedicine technology. (Iowa Public Radio)

Approved by the FDA for use during the first 10 weeks of gestation, medication abortion uses two types of pills:

  • mifepristone, which interrupts the flow of the hormone progesterone that sustains the pregnancy; and
  • misoprostol, which causes contractions.

Misoprostol alone—which is 80-85 percent effective—or in combination with mifepristone—95 percent effective—is an extremely safe way to end a pregnancy in the first 12 weeks of gestation.

Millions of women around the world have successfully used abortion pills without the assistance of a clinician, which the World Health Organization has approved as safe for up to nine weeks of gestation.

As a result, the percentage of medication abortion has increased significantly since the FDA first approved medication abortion in 2000.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, medication abortion accounted for approximately 40 percent of all recorded abortions and 60 percent of abortions performed up to 10 weeks gestation in 2017. (The actual rate is likely higher because of the growing number of people who are self-managing their abortions using medication purchased on the internet or obtained in other ways.)

The growth of medication abortion has dovetailed with expansion of telehealth to provide new opportunities for pregnant people to access abortion in a safe and private way.

The Mayo Clinic defines telehealth as “the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely and manage your health care.”

Telehealth makes health care more accessible to people who live in rural or isolated communities and to people with limited mobility, time or transportation options. Telehealth provides support for self-management of health care.

Nurse Jennifer Witting stands beside newly installed telemedicine equipment at the Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital in Laurium, MI on June 20, 2012. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

As abortion restrictions have increased over the last several years and harassment of women entering health clinics persists—even during the COVID-19 crisis—women are increasingly turning to medication abortion and telehealth to increase their safety and privacy when obtaining abortion care.

Organizations like SASSPlan C and Aid Access provide pregnant people with medical counselors from outside the country to help them safely use abortion pills.

Policy Barriers to Telemedicine Abortions

Nevertheless, numerous policy barriers limit the reach of telehealth abortion, reports the Guttmacher Institute. Many states prohibit patient access to the abortion pill via telemedicine, despite its proven safety.

Eighteen states currently require the prescribing clinician to be physically present when prescribing the abortion pill. Thirty-three states require the clinician prescribing the abortion pill to be a physician. Neither of these requirements are necessary because the abortion pill is extremely safe and effective.

Another significant barrier to telemedicine abortion is that the FDA restricts the distribution of mifepristone.

“The FDA requires that mifepristone used for abortion be dispensed in a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital. It may not be mailed to a patient or dispensed on prescription from a pharmacy, ” said Grossman. “This restriction is not based on medical evidence.”

However, since 2016, the organization Gynuity has operated a research study on telemedicine abortion called TelAbortion, which allows clinicians participating in the study to provide medication abortion care by videoconference and mail without an in-person visit to the abortion provider.

The study is currently running in 13 states: Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Georgia, New York, Maine, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Maryland and Montana.

In order to receive care, the patient must be in one of these 13 states during the videoconference and must have a mailing address in that state so the provider can mail the medications.

The patient has screening tests as needed with nearby health care providers, then a videoconference with the abortion provider. If the patient is eligible for medication abortion, the provider sends mifepristone and misoprostol with instructions by mail.

Follow-up is done remotely by phone with local or home tests. This study has shown telemedicine abortion is safe and effective.

So instead of restricting access to abortion, we should be expanding access to telemedicine abortion.

“During the pandemic, it would be possible to provide medication abortion through 11 weeks of pregnancy without an in-person visit and by mailing pills to a patient,” said Grossman. “This would reduce the patient and clinician’s risk of acquiring the virus and not a single piece of PPE would be used.”

Source: https://msmagazine.com/2020/03/26/telemedicine-abortion-what-it-is-and-why-we-need-it-now-more-than-ever/?fbclid=IwAR0g1QS6cC3qqf87y37STBSs8W5VJPDBggLkm-M8nnVXQLMgW1zfAZlAStw

Abortion providers in Ohio say they are still open for business, still performing abortions, and still providing care for patients in their communities after an order to stop ‘non-essential’ surgeries last week.

“Abortion is an essential and time sensitive procedure,” said Iris Harvey, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, “we are in compliance.”

Iris Harvey
Iris Harvey, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohi

On Wednesday March 18, the Ohio Department of Health ordered that “all non-essential or elective surgeries” be stopped in an effort to preserve personal protective equipment like masks, gloves and gowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The health department said “a non-essential surgery is a procedure that can be delayed with undue risk to the current or future health of a patient.”

Examples of criteria to consider include:

  • Threat to patient’s life if surgery or procedure is not performed
  • Threat of permanent dysfunction of an extremity or organ system
  • Risk of metastasis or progression of staging; or
  • Risk of rapidly worsening to severe symptoms (time sensitive)

AG sends letters to abortion providers

Just two days later, the Attorney General Dave Yost’s office said it was forwarded complaints that abortion clinics weren’t complying with the non-essential surgery order.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost

On Friday March 20, the Attorney General sent letters to the Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio and the Women’s Medical Center in Dayton ordering they “stop performing non-essential and elective surgical abortions.”

The letters went on to say, “Non-essential surgical abortions are those that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient.”

The letter then threatened unspecified action, “If you or your facility do not immediately stop performing non-essential or elective surgical abortions in compliance with the attached order, the Department of Health will take all appropriate measures.”

Essential or Non-Essential?

“I don’t think there is a ‘non-essential’ abortion,” said Harvey.

At their daily briefings, Governor DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton have been pressed by reporters to clarify which abortion procedures would be determined “essential” and which would be considered ‘non-essential’.

Governor DeWine and Dr. Acton Saturday

Neither the Governor nor Dr. Acton would answer those questions but referred them to the Attorney General, who declined our request for an interview.

In an email, the AG’s communications director Bethany McCorkle wrote News 5: “As our client, if Dr. Acton’s office determines that her order was violated by any surgical facility in Ohio, they can refer it to our office to pursue legal action on behalf of the Ohio Department of Health. We cannot provide legal interpretations of her order.”

On Saturday March 21, the Attorney General also sent a letter to stop elective surgeries to the Urology Group in Cincinnati.

McCorkle also wrote, “This is not an abortion issue. A letter was also sent to a urology group that was allegedly performing elective surgeries.”

Lawmaker Appalled

State Senator Nickie Antonio, a Democrat who represents the west side of Cleveland and its suburbs, disagrees.

“I was so appalled at the vehemence of the order,” said Antonio.

Nickie Antonio

OhioSenate.gov
Ohio State Senator Nickie Antonio (right)

“I put the total focus of this whole interpretation of the original order on Attorney General Yost,” she said. “To selectively, just to focus on clinics that provide abortion care, put it into a political nature.”

Now is not the time “to politicize anything,” she said.

Antonio said she has spoken with abortion care providers about the order to halt elective surgeries.

“These clinics are in full compliance with the governor’s orders,” she said. “The misnomer was that somehow they weren’t.”

She also said it is critical women continue to have access to health care, including abortion services, during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Not only is it essential, it’s also time-sensitive,’ she said, due to Ohio’s restrictions on abortions services.

“The AG (attorney general) should not practice medicine without a license,” said Antonio. “It is not his job to identify what is essential for women’s reproductive health care.

”He should just stay in his lane,” she said.

Source: https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/continuing-coverage/coronavirus/local-coronavirus-news/ohio-abortion-providers-remain-open-despite-ags-order?fbclid=IwAR19CG_nMLzOG9afId_V4_RkIr9Nm0abv56QcZZEKEX–kkKoXsPBz9DiM4

Provisions tucked into the fine print of the 880-page bill take direct aim at Planned Parenthood, the reproductive healthcare provider and eternal GOP target over its role providing abortions.

WASHINGTON — A hard-fought battle over abortion raged just beneath the surface of the Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus economic rescue plan. And it looks like Republicans won.

Provisions tucked into the fine print of the 880-page bill approved by the Senate Thursday take direct aim at Planned Parenthood, the reproductive healthcare provider and eternal GOP target over its role providing abortions. Those details make it harder for the group to shelter from the economic storm unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has already profoundly disrupted the American healthcare system.

The bill makes it much more difficult, if not outright impossible, for Planned Parenthood to access new multi-billion dollar funds aimed at stabilizing the U.S. economy in the midst of the historic downturn, according to experts who spoke with VICE News.

The bill is complex and lengthy, and advocates on both sides of the abortion debate said at first they weren’t entirely sure what was hiding in its pages.

Democrats succeeded in striking one controversial passage from the bill that had seemed tailor-made to keep Planned Parenthood from accessing federally-backed loans. But a team of Republicans led by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida gave the Trump administration other options for blocking federal funding, according to experts who read the bill as well as Planned Parenthood itself.

Trump’s Small Business Administration will have broad latitude to deny Planned Parenthood access to emergency rescue loans created by the new stimulus package and available to other nonprofits. The bill also includes language that blocks state and local governments from using coronavirus rescue funds from being allocated to cover abortion services.

“Anti-choice activists in Congress and the White House used a pandemic response to target sexual and reproductive health care and its providers,” said Clare Coleman, President and CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association. “It is wholly disappointing that Congress failed to support the entirety of the nation’s public health infrastructure.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri and diehard abortion opponent, said he’d been assured pro-life forces had emerged victorious from the legislative battle, even though the text of the bill didn’t make that obvious.

“I’m not happy negotiators took out language that excluded Planned Parenthood from receiving government subsidies,” he tweeted. “But I have been assured Planned Parenthood will still NOT be eligible.”

Crisis loans

The bill puts the Small Business Authority in charge of overseeing a massive $350 billion lending program aimed at helping a wide variety of small-time operations across the country meet their payroll and pay rent. But it also gives Trump’s SBA leeway to decide that Planned Parenthood doesn’t qualify.

The bill says that nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees can receive loans. But the SBA gets to rule on whether any of the dozens of individual Planned Parenthood affiliates scattered around the country should be counted by themselves or as a whole, according to experts who reviewed the bill.

There’s also a similar upper ceiling on revenue that functions essentially the same way, creating another avenue for officials to bar Planned Parenthood, legal experts said.

“The Small Business Administration retains discretion to exclude certain providers” from the massive new loan program, said Mara Youdelman, an attorney with the National Health Law Program, a civil rights advocacy group. “This is troubling, especially in the middle of a crisis in the health care system when we need every provider available to provide services.”

In a statement, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the group’s advocacy and political arm, acknowledged the impact of the provisions and criticized Republicans for including them.

“The Trump administration and Republican Congressional leadership once again used this must-pass relief bill to advance their anti-abortion agenda,” the group said. “The bill gives the Small Business Administration broad discretion to exclude Planned Parenthood affiliates and other non-profits serving people with low incomes and deny them benefits under the new small business loan program.”

Hyde Amendment provision

The stimulus package also includes language designed to keep states and local governments from using emergency funds for channeling money to pay for abortion.

The restriction links to the Hyde Amendment, which generally bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion unless the life of the mother is at risk, or in cases of rape or incest. In this instance, the limitation was quietly tacked onto a $150 billion regional stabilization fund designed to help governments cope with the coronavirus, legal experts said.

While those funds can be doled out with plenty of leeway for the most part, the new legislation manages to attach Hyde language by referencing the current appropriations law, “Public Law 116-94,” in an otherwise extremely bland-looking paragraph tucked 600 pages deep into the text.

“The state can’t step in and say, [abortion] is going to be included in the package of healthcare that we are using this stabilization money to cover,” said Leila Abolfazli, Director of Federal Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center. “It ties their hands if they start providing healthcare services.”

Cover: Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., talks with reporters after the Senate Republican Policy luncheon in Russell Building on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Source: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/y3mjm5/how-republicans-snuck-anti-abortion-measures-into-the-coronavirus-bailout-bill?utm_source=vice&utm_medium=ppact-fb-covid&utm_campaign=ppact-fb-covid&utm_content=032820&fbclid=IwAR0ap3CuPGM4BMxVnqNlompo4ZrXwZcmuwwfajoUCIbFqv0s4amLy6nJNQ4

With anti-abortion state officials using COVID-19 to stop legal abortion and millions losing their jobs, abortion funds are seeing a crush of requests.

“If people don’t have jobs, they can’t afford to put anything towards the procedure and have to pinch pennies to get by. We have to get people their health care access, and abortion is health care,” O’Brien said.
Shutterstock

For people seeking abortion care, the COVID-19 pandemic has made an already difficult situation harder.

In recent weeks, millions have lost their job, and parents are struggling to afford necessary childcare as schools across the United States have closed until further notice. People are faced with abortion costs that, for most, were difficult to afford in the first place. To make matters worse, states like Texas and Oklahoma have classified abortion care as “nonessential” in their COVID-19 response.

Organizations that help cover the costs of abortion care are already seeing the grim effects of a record 3.3 million people in the United States filing for unemployment benefits and Republican state officials using the crisis to interrupt abortion access.

Yellowhammer Fund, an abortion fund based in Alabama, has heard from callers who have lost their job as wide swaths of the economy shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s upsetting to see people become more impacted by what’s going on, and one of the things that’s upsetting is not seeing a better response [from our government] because people are hurting,” Candace E.C. O’Brien, associate director of health services for Yellowhammer Fund, told Rewire.News. “We have a low-income community [that’s] being heavily impacted by the virus that don’t have the same protections as [the] middle and upper class. They don’t have the same financial security—it’s impacting their health care and will impact it in the future as the pandemic grows.”

“If people don’t have jobs, they can’t afford to put anything towards the procedure and have to pinch pennies to get by. We have to get people their health care access, and abortion is health care,” O’Brien said.

Because of the increased need Yellowhammer is seeing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has increased the amount of funding they provide callers and implemented a gift card program to provide more support. The gift cards will be mailed to clients and can be used anywhere, because, O’Brien said, limiting people to gas or groceries could increase the barriers they’re experiencing, and not everyone has access to a debit card or state-issued ID.

The Northwest Abortion Access Fund (NWAAF) was already seeing a high number of callers in January, something board member Nilofar Ganjaie said normally would have decreased by now. They’ve had to make changes to accommodate the skyrocketing demand by callers concerned they won’t be able to have an abortion during the pandemic.

People seeking abortion care in Washington state, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska can call NWAAF’s 24/7 hotline, and  volunteers call back to assist with the cost of abortion and related travel and lodging. But because of concerns about spreading COVID-19, instead of volunteers opening their homes or driving patients to their appointments, NWAAF is reserving hotel rooms and booking transportation through rideshare apps to limit physical contact. Ganjaie pointed out the safety precautions rideshare companies have taken, adding that their organization is screening volunteers and callers for COVID-19 symptoms.

NWAAF has also struggled with providing food assistance during the COVID-19 outbreak. “We provide grocery delivery, and because delivery services are backed up three to five days, we’ve been having volunteers—and even our board of directors—deliver no-contact groceries or takeout to callers. We drop it off to where the person is staying and leave it on their doorstep,” Ganjaie told Rewire.News.

NWAAF has updated its hotline database so that it allows “hotline advocates to indicate if a caller is experiencing any additional barriers or hardship to access[ing] abortion due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” like if they need financial assistance because they’ve lost their job, or if the situation has made it harder to get to the clinic.

“Our purpose for tracking data is to adjust our plan, [because] we want to start collecting this information immediately so we can pivot [as an organization] as needed. We want to do what we can to shift our budget and allocate our money [to people seeking abortions],” Ganjaie said.

The organization also plans to provide funding assistance to people seeking abortion care in states outside the Northwest where Republican officials have suspended abortions.

Sarah Lopez, program coordinator for Fund Texas Choice (FTC), an organization that provides logistical support to Texans needing abortions, told Rewire.News that while people traveling out of state for care usually do so because of gestational limits, FTC has recently heard from people of “varying gestational ages” needing to travel because of canceled appointments. Access in Texas is already severely limited after a sweeping anti-abortion law shut down over half the state’s clinics, leaving some people 300 miles from the nearest provider.

“As of last week we haven’t been able to purchase bus tickets, but we’re still able to book flights, help with gas, and book whichever remaining hotels are open,” Lopez said. “The major effects of the crisis were kicked into full gear this week, as clinics were forced to cancel appointments. I’ve been doing my best to keep folks at ease and prepare them for out-of-state travel by maintaining that if they need to travel even further to reach a clinic, we will still help them get there.”

Lopez said she’s angry the state is using the COVID-19 outbreak as an opportunity to “politicize health care,” but she’s “feeling so much solidarity” with her partner organizations and clinics.

“I know that it feels harder than ever to access abortion care right now, but I want folks to know that they’re not alone and they have a whole community of people rallying behind them to make sure access isn’t pushed entirely out of reach.”

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2020/03/27/paying-for-an-abortion-was-already-hard-the-covid-19-economic-downturn-has-made-it-even-harder/

The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed an emergency lawsuit against the Governor of Texas and other state officials to ensure that patients can access essential, time-sensitive abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the lawsuit, the Center joins Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Lawyering Project in representing a group of Texas abortion providers.

Earlier this week, after Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring the 30-day postponement of all surgeries and procedures not deemed immediately medically necessary, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a press release singling out abortion providers and interpreting the order to include “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” As a result of the ensuing confusion created by the Attorney General’s statement, Texas providers have had to turn away dozens of patients and cancel hundreds of appointments, preventing patients from accessing essential care.

“It’s unconscionable that the Texas Attorney General is exploiting this pandemic to end abortion in the state,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Abortion care is time-sensitive and essential health care that has a profound impact on a person’s health and life, which is why it is protected as a constitutional right. Texas is abusing the state’s emergency powers and we are filing suit to stop it.”

The lawsuit claims that the executive order and the Attorney General’s interpretation of it are unconstitutional since they impose a de facto ban on abortion. Plaintiffs are seeking a temporary restraining order and ultimately a permanent injunction against the executive order and its interpretation. The lawsuit asserts, “By selectively burdening patients’ fundamental right to abortion without justification and singling abortion providers and their patients out for differential treatment from providers of other medical services and their patients, the Executive Order and corresponding Attorney General interpretation and the Emergency Rule, as enforced, violate Texans’ right to equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

According to medical experts including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, abortion is an essential, time-sensitive procedure, and delaying this care could “profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.”

The state of Texas has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country as well as one of the country’s highest rates of uninsured residents.

Source:  https://reproductiverights.org/story/center-files-emergency-lawsuit-texas-protect-essential-abortion-access-during-pandemic?fbclid=IwAR1dmqF4ajDigCxV5CyTerhPry4pftxtYzVlch2cpRVMxzGR_POaPJKJdQc