It’s already apparent a small minority of zealots will do everything they can to use the coronavirus crisis to eradicate the right to an abortion

An abortion rights activist holds a sign outside of the US supreme court in Washington DC. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Texas says abortion not essential, church services are

Coronavirus is an unprecedented public health crisis. But, for some Republicans, it’s also a political opportunity: anti-abortion activists are ruthlessly using the pandemic as an excuse to crack down on reproductive rights. Six conservative states – Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas – have categorized abortions as non-essential, except in very limited cases, effectively banning access to the procedure during the pandemic.

Federal judges have stopped the bans from going into effect in most of these states. However, on Tuesday an appeals court ruled that Texas could reinstate its abortion ban. On the same day women were told that their reproductive rights were considered dispensable, Texas’s Governor Greg Abbott declared that religious services were “essential” and in-person gatherings could continue during the pandemic. This is despite the fact that there have been multiple cases of coronavirus spreading in places of worship, with people dying as a result.

Getting an abortion in Texas wasn’t exactly easy before Covid-19; the state has 21 clinics for 6 million women of reproductive age. But now desperate women are going to be forced to put themselves in danger by traveling long distances to get care in neighboring states. According to the Guttmacher Institute the Texas ban has increased one-way distances to an abortion clinic from 12 miles to 243 miles; that’s an increase of almost 2,000%. As is the case with all restrictions on abortion, the burden will fall disproportionately on low-income women without the resources to travel.

It is also likely that the Texas abortion ban will result in more women attempting dangerous DIY procedures. According to a recent study women in Texas are already three times more likely to try to end their pregnancy on their own than women in other states.

There is nothing pro-life about exploiting an emergency to further a political agenda. There’s nothing pro-life about forcing women to give birth during a pandemic. There’s nothing pro-life women having to put themselves in danger to get the help they need, and the services the constitution is supposed to protect. But, as has always been clear, anti-abortion fanatics don’t care about “life”, they care about control.

The Texas abortion ban is supposed to be temporary. But our civil liberties are most fragile during times of fear and crisis; rights that are lost are not easily won back. It’s not just our physical health that we need to worry about during this pandemic; it’s the health of our democracy. As is already apparent, a small minority of zealots will do everything they can to use this crisis to eradicate the right to an abortion in America.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/04/abortion-restrictions-coronavirus-pandemic-nothing-pro-life

Republicans have stacked the federal courts with ideologues willing to entrain any bad faith argument designed to overturn Roe—even the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ultimately, what is so dangerous about the COVID-19 fight and abortion is that like the virus itself: It has happened in this country at exactly the worst time. Shutterstock

It turns out conservative lawmakers didn’t need a U.S. Supreme Court stacked with conservative justices to overturn Roe v. Wade. A global health pandemic might do the trick. 

That’s the picture emerging from the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the fight over Texas’ attempt to ban legal abortion during the COVID-19 outbreak. In a brief filed Wednesday night, attorneys for the state argued that abortion providers are looking for “special treatment” by challenging the declaration by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) that abortion is not an “essential” medical service and therefore would be suspending along with other “elective” medical procedures as part of the states virus mitigation efforts.

They accuse abortion providers of failing to adequately protect staff and patients and invited the Fifth Circuit judges to use this case to expand the power of states to ban abortion outright. 

“The Supreme Court in Roe considered only whether the States’ interest in fetal life was sufficient to justify a complete ban on elective previability abortions,” Texas argues in its brief. “It did not consider the possible impact of a public-health crisis.”

That question—whether states can use a public health crisis to ban abortion, and if so, for how long— has emerged as the most dire threat to Roe v. Wade yet. Not surprisingly, Republican state attorneys general are lining up behind Texas to claim they too can use the worst public health crisis in a century to eradicate legal abortion.

“Neither Roe nor any post-Roe abortion cases evaluates risk to women and the public at large posed by providers seeking to be categorically exempt from life-saving measures that are required to respond to a growing epidemic,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) argues in an amicus brief in support of the Texas ban. “To the extent they do apply, the balance of interests is firmly on the side of the States.”

The ways in which the states work together to advocate for Texas’ ban before the conservative judges of the Fifth Circuit are important. Paxton takes the firm line of arguing for raw state power here—both to ban abortion and to be insulated from judicial review in its decision to do so. That frees up Landry to appeal to discuss all the other difficult decisions states face in managing the COVID-19 outbreak.

“In the COVID-19 crisis, governors are making extremely difficult choices, with far-reaching consequence,” the amicus brief states. 

Closing schools burdens parents who have to stay home with their children and experience lost leave time, income, and potentially their jobs. Graduations, bar exams, and criminal trials are on hold. Medical testing, housing, and treatment of individual in prisons, nursing homes, juvenile facilities, and foster homes must be considered. Some cities will receive floating Navy hospitals and in New Orleans, a field hospital is being set up in a convention center to address the expected shortage of hospital beds. At the same time, state first responders are becoming ill. The shutdown of businesses leads to unemployment. The homeless must be evaluated, housed, tested, and treated. School lunches must be distributed so school children can eat.

Louisiana identifies a lot of difficult decisions for states to navigate in responding to COVID-19. None of these difficult decisions Paxton or Abbott have made, by the way—Texas remains one of a handful of states without a stay-at-home order as part of its response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

If conservative lawmakers were really concerned with effectively addressing the worst public health crisis this country has faced in at least a generation, they would drop this latest attack on abortion rights, they would rescind the legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) pending before the Supreme Court, and they would ease the myriad of barriers already in place for accessing abortion care.

Instead, Republicans are doing what they always do: exploiting a moment of crisis for political gain. Louisiana’s brief opens by citing the possibility of 2 million people dying in this country from COVID-19 without a hint of irony. There’s no mention of the Mardi Gras festivities that continued in the face of the spreading threat. There’s not a word of the ongoing conservative attacks on the ACA and exacerbating the effect those attacks have on the public health crisis. 

Ultimately, what is so dangerous about the COVID-19 fight and abortion is that like the virus itself: It has happened in this country at exactly the worst time. Republicans have spent the past three years stacking the federal courts with ideologues willing to entrain any bad faith argument designed to overturn Roe. And conservatives have found a whole new crop of bad faith arguments in the COVID-19 pandemic to do so. 

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2020/04/03/covid-19-could-bring-the-end-of-roe-v-wade/

Abortion is a human right. A pandemic doesn't change that (opinion ...

Access to abortion is an essential service and a fundamental human right. Period. The denial of it, including in times of global crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic, constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

In the United States, the Trump administration’s colossal failure to help keep people healthy and to slow the pandemic-driven implosion of the economy shouldn’t come as a surprise to much of the public. He has delayed acknowledging the severity of Covid-19, prematurely hinted at an end to social distancing and over the course of his term in office, attempted to slash funding for the WHO, the CDC, and other preparedness agencies that are tasked with the monitoring of such epidemics. The list goes on and on.
But even as some states are stepping up in heroic ways where the federal government has fallen short, several states – Mississippi, Ohio, Texas and Oklahoma – have moved to limit abortion as a part of their responses to the coronavirus threat.
All four states have classified abortions that are not a medical emergency as non-essential medical services that must be canceled or deferred, telling providers to stop performing them during the coronavirus pandemic. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week ordered that state medical providers stop all non-essential surgeries, which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton confirmed Monday includes abortions not medically necessary to preserve the life and health of the mother; Paxton noted violations could include a penalty of up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves told media Tuesday that he would take action if the state’s lone clinic was providing elective abortions after the state health department ordered that non-essential surgery be postponed. In Ohio, Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson ordered multiple abortion providers to adhere the state health director’s executive order stopping non-essential procedures. Fulkerson also sent a similar letter to an Ohio urologist, and his office highlighted this when it stressed that this was not an abortion issue.) Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt suspended abortions by executive order on Tuesday, clarifying Friday that the order pertained to elective abortions.
Covid-19 comes at a time of unprecedented backlash against abortion rights. All three of these states have sought to restrict access during the last year. Mississippi and Ohio passed so-called “heartbeat bills” (later blocked by federal judges) that would have banned abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy; multiple cities in Texas have declared themselves “sanctuary cities for the unborn,” adopting unenforceable measures purporting to outlaw abortion within city limits.
These efforts to curb abortion rights are also happening in a global context where human rights are under assault. Here at home and around the world, the rights to gender equality, education and employment, and general well-being have come under siege. As Covid-19 has revealed the severity of inequalities around the world, some of those who will be hit hardest by the virus are women, who make up 70% of frontline workers in the health and social sectors.
They will also be the ones hit hardest by restrictions on abortion, with little choice but to resort to unsafe and oftentimes illegal procedures. Usually in the US, the later in pregnancy the abortion, the more expensive it gets. And delays in accessing abortion service can put pregnant people outside the time limits imposed by restrictive abortion laws. Thus, in the midst of economic turmoil, to be forced to delay an abortion is simply a non-option.
In short: now is not the time for lawmakers to put public health and safety measures like critical reproductive services last on their list of priorities.
Abortion services are essential services. Cutting back access to them violates fundamental human rights and will undoubtedly lead to a sharp increase in unsafe abortion procedures. And in a world where global health systems are already overwhelmed with Covid-19 responses, access to emergency medical care to manage the consequences of unsafe abortions will diminish further.
The UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice has noted that denial of essential women’s health services, including abortion, will “drive service provision underground into the hands of unqualified practitioners…. Persistently high maternal mortality rates often reflect a lack of investment in and under-prioritization of services required only by women.” For hundreds of thousands of women across the globe, like the coronavirus pandemic itself, access to abortion can be quite literally a matter of life or death.
Some states in the US recognize this. Washington and Massachusetts have both taken steps to protect abortion as an essential service in light of Covid-19. Further, reproductive health experts and doctors have said that abortion is an essential service and can be provided safely during the outbreak, in the clinic and via telemedicine.
However, those recommendations have not been heeded in Mississippi, Texas, Ohio and Oklahoma, nor at the federal level.
These are exactly the types of actions that human rights experts have been warning about: states of emergency cannot be used to curtail fundamental human rights. Emergency declarations should never function as a cover for repressive action under the guise of protecting people’s health.
So let’s call these restrictions what they really are: an opportunistic moment for a radical right-wing agenda to restrict women’s rights, which, leading up to now, we have seen in every aspect of this administration—from the imposition of the domestic and global gag rules, to efforts at the United Nations to block ambiguous language on sexual and reproductive rights, to the launch of the State Department’s Unalienable Rights Commission, which is purported to provide “thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.” (We recently filed a lawsuit against the State Department and two of its officials for operating the commission in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, to which the administration has thus far not offered a public response.)
Crises, like the one we are currently in, reveal why human rights protections are so fundamental, and as such, there’s no better time than now to hold the US accountable to its commitments to human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. Abortion has always been an essential, time-sensitive procedure. Now more than ever — women cannot afford for conservative ideologists to forcefully cut back access to abortion services.
Women and families across the globe have dealt with enough. Governments worldwide should focus on eradicating the Covid-19 pandemic, not using it as a political weapon to undermine women’s rights.

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