-Clinics are expanding access with virtual visits and sending pills by mail.

Terri first realized she was pregnant in late March. She was isolating at home with her boyfriend in rural upstate New York, where she runs a housecleaning business. At 46, she was sure she didn’t want to become a 60-year-old parent to a teenager. “I was like, ‘No, that’s not going to happen,’” says Terri, who asked to be identified by her first name only. She called the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic, a 40-minute drive away, and took the first appointment available, which was a week-and-a-half later. Uninsured, Terri says she planned to show up at the clinic and “throw [herself] at their mercy.”

But before her appointment, she read about telemedicine abortion. All that was required was a phone consultation with a doctor to establish whether she was less than 10 weeks pregnant (the limit for medication abortion’s approved use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration). Once proven, the clinic would deliver abortion pills by mail, allowing for a quiet, non-surgical procedure at home. For Terri, this was a far better option than potentially exposing herself to COVID-19 at a clinic.

pregnancy test

Terri is among the many women across the United States who are facing new barriers to abortion care as some conservative states use the pandemic to justify halting procedures, classifying abortions as “non-essential.” In this new environment, telemedicine abortion has gained new momentum, with health care advocates expanding its geographical reach and streamlining protocols, so as to minimize in-person clinic visits.

Telemedicine abortion was pioneered in the United States to address provider shortages by bringing doctors into clinics via videoconference to regions where abortion access is limited. Now, the practice has become a way of bringing providers directly into patients’ homes, bypassing clinics altogether.

So, how does it work? Previously, a telemedicine abortion typically required patients to obtain an ultrasound or pelvic exam at the nearest medical facility to confirm a pregnancy. But in response to the coronavirus crisis, more clinics are offering “no-test” procedures wherein a patient answers a series of questions by phone with a doctor in order to date their pregnancy. Once a gestational age has been established, patients then make just one clinic visit to pick up the pills, due to a federal regulation that mandates pills be dispensed in a doctor’s office or clinic.

Telemedicine abortion has become a way of bringing providers directly to patients’ homes, bypassing clinics altogether.

Even that is starting to change. In 2016, Gynuity Health Projects, a New York-based research and technical assistance organization, launched the TelAbortion study to evaluate sending abortion pills by mail. (As a research study filed with the Food and Drug Administration, it’s exempt from the in-clinic dispensation requirement.) To date, Gynuity’s clinic partners have mailed nearly 850 packets of pills in the 13 states where the study is active.The number of women who had abortions through the study doubled in March and April, compared to the first two months of this year.

As state governments place additional restrictions on abortion access, Gynuity says it’s gearing up for a spike in demand for services. “I think as things get more and more restricted, we will see our numbers increase,” says Erica Chong, a director at Gynuity and co-director of the study. To reach patients in states where telemedicine abortion is illegal, some of Gynuity’s clinic partners have run digital ads in areas bordering the study states and finding creative ways to get pills to patients. For example, after having a consultation in a participating state, some of Gynuity’s clinic partners “have sent packages with the medication to FedEx offices right near the borders,” Chong says. “They will hold the packages for [patients to] pickup.”

Carafem, a network of reproductive health clinics that offers telemedicine abortions in Georgia, Illinois, and Maryland, also is seeing increased interest in its services as restrictions take effect. Its clinic in Illinois, which is surrounded by states with some of the strictest abortion regulations in the country, experienced a 50 percent rise in demand for telemedicine procedures in the first two weeks of April. Melissa Grant, Carafem’s chief operations officer of Carafem, says she had to assign additional staff to field calls and online requests from residents of Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Missouri.

hand holding phone illustration
GETTY IMAGES/MIA FEITEL

In New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus, there has been a sharp uptick in demand for procedures by mail. “Our calls from New York are picking up significantly,” says Leah Coplon, program director at Maine Family Planning, which employs doctors licensed in New York and operates as a clinic partner in the TelAbortion study. “We’re getting calls daily, which was not the case before.”

From her home in the Catskills, Terri was one of those callers. She dialed Maine Family Planning on a Tuesday. A staff member determined her eligibility for the TelAbortion study, after which she had an intake consultation, which included detailed instructions on how to take the pills and what to expect. She then “met” with the doctor, via her iPhone, who provided the prescription. The pills arrived the following Tuesday. When we spoke the next day, Terri’s heaviest abortion-related cramping had passed, and she was due for a virtual follow-up appointment with a nurse within a week. “Now with things being closed, I can’t imagine going in [to a clinic],” she says.

Overall, studies in the United States and overseas have found telemedicine abortions result in high patient satisfactionfew complications, and comparable results to standard abortion care. Despite its track record of safety, eighteen states currently ban telemedicine abortion. As the practice increases in popularity, abortion advocates say they worry additional states may ban telemedicine abortion specifically. It could also be vulnerable to the same laws that have already caused widespread clinic closures across the country.

Case in point: In February, Republican senators in Congress introduced the Teleabortion Prevention Act of 2020. “It’s as easy to stop legal telemedicine abortion as it is to create obstacles for a clinic,” says Frances Kissling, a bioethicist and the former president of Catholics for Choice, a pro-choice advocacy group. “We should use it as long as we can, but…if the climate on the abortion remains the same, it has a shelf life.”

What feels like a new normal now could eventually just become normal.

Others, however, are optimistic the COVID-19 pandemic will yield lasting changes to how abortion is provided in the United States. “If we learn through research that there are simplified ways to provide services that are still equally effective and acceptable to the patient, then that’s how the medical process changes,” says Grant of Carafem.

In other words, what feels like a new normal now could eventually just become normal. For Terri says protecting herself from the menace of the coronavirus is just one of the advantages of telemedicine abortion. She didn’t face antiabortion protesters who often stand outside of clinics, and in the comfort of her own home, she could perform personal rituals as she underwent the procedure.

She apologized to her body and acknowledged what she called “the mistake to even begin to draw forth a life.” Her boyfriend sat beside her. “It sounds stupid but you have your cats, your bed, your tablet, so you can support yourself,” Terri says. “Emotionally, too, you can say whatever you need to say.”

Source: https://www.elle.com/life-love/a32335002/telemedicine-abortion-coronavirus/

Norma McCorvey, the woman known as “Jane Roe” in the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion, said she was lying when she switched to support the anti-abortion movement, saying she had been paid to do so.

In a new documentary, made before her death in 2017 and due to be broadcast on Friday, McCorvey makes what she calls a “deathbed confession.”

“I took their money and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say,” she says on camera. “I did it well too. I am a good actress. Of course, I’m not acting now.”

“If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that’s no skin off my ass. That’s why they call it choice,” she added.

“AKA Jane Roe,” will be broadcast on the FX cable channel on Friday but was made available to television journalists in advance.

It traces McCorvey’s troubled youth, how she became the poster child of abortion rights and her about-face in the 1990s when she announced she was baptized as a born-again Christian who campaigned against abortion.

The documentary was filmed in the last months of her life before her death at age 69 in 2017 in Texas.

The 1973 Supreme Court ruling has for decades been the focus of a divisive political, legal and moral debate.

The Rev. Robert Schenck, one of the evangelical pastors who worked with McCorvey after her conversion to Christianity in the mid-1990s, looked stunned as he was shown her interview as part of the documentary.

Schenck said the anti-abortion movement had exploited her weaknesses for its own ends and acknowledged she had been paid for her appearances on the movement’s behalf.

“What we did with Norma was highly unethical,” Schenck said in the documentary. “The jig is up.”

In a separate blog post on Tuesday, Schenck said he hoped people would watch “AKA Jane Roe.”

“You’ll see me express profound regret for how movement leaders (like me) mistreated Norma,” he wrote in the blog.

“Her name and photo would command some of the largest windfalls of dollars for my group and many others, but the money we gave her was modest. More than once, I tried to make up for it with an added check, but it was never fair.”

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-abortion-jane-roe/plaintiff-in-roe-v-wade-u-s-abortion-case-says-she-was-paid-to-switch-sides-idUSKBN22V33D?fbclid=IwAR3MLxuhrpBED7GwoV-GqLPN5i2b2aB76QRVP-8DP2RXU2PbYw8X8P9KW7o

The increase in need comes as unemployment reaches new highs.

As the novel coronavirus continues to impact most aspects of American life, including health care, abortion funds across the country are reporting that calls for assistance have increased.

Abortion funds provide money and other forms of assistance to patients seeking abortions, including to help cover the cost of the procedure itself as well as associated costs like transportation, child care and hotel stays as getting an abortion for many U.S. patients involves traveling long distances to clinics and multi-day processes due to state laws.

The Tampa Bay Abortion Fund reported a 30% increase in callers in April from March, and the Chicago Abortion Fund reported a 35% increase in callers in March and April from February, marking a total year-over-year increase of more than 140%. The Chicago fund notes the yearly increase started before the pandemic, in part due to an increase in restrictive laws around Illinois, but recently it has been seeing an increase in callers who needed the full price of the procedure funded, rather than just a percentage.

Fund Texas Choice and Women Have Options in Ohio report they have had to increase their spending and funding since the pandemic hit in March. Other funds, like the New Orleans Abortion Fund, have become more proactive, increasing outreach and ads so patients can access care.

These increases in need come as the country is facing historic unemployment levels, meaning that people are less able to pay for unexpected costs like those associated with accessing an abortion. And while anti-abortion legislators have been working to shut down access for years, the pandemic has sparked new fights as some state lawmakers seek to label abortion a nonessential procedure.

“All of this, plus the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression, means people who might not have had the need to call an abortion fund a month ago are now facing economic instability and uncertainty, new difficulties affecting their parenting options and a landscape more hostile to their reproductive choices. As a result, the need for abortion funds only grows,” Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, which serves as the umbrella organization for the local funds, told ABC News.

Hernandez noted that the pandemic hit in the midst of the national network’s annual fundraising push, which was expected to raise $2 million, so funds are facing even more of a crunch. Even so, she said, “Abortion funds know what it means to fill the gaps of a public health crisis, and that’s what we’ll continue to do now.”

In Kentucky, one of several states with only one abortion clinic, the state attorney general called for abortion providers to stop providing care in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in March. Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, vetoed a bill pushed by Republican lawmakers in late April that would have given Attorney General Daniel Cameron the authority to ban abortion procedures during the outbreak.

“Kentucky’s anti-abortion laws created the foundation for even more restricted access during the pandemic,” Meg Sasse Stern, support fund director for Kentucky Health Justice Network, told ABC News.

Kentucky Health Justice Network also reported an increase in calls since March, adding that many callers said they are delaying accessing abortion care because of worries about, and practical barriers created by, coronavirus.

“Transportation and child care remain the largest hurdles that Kentucky patients face, and having to overcome those hurdles has caused patients to delay care,” Stern said.

Typically, Kentucky Health Justice Network can help patients by driving them to appointments, but Stern said because of coronavirus “drivers can no longer drive to rural areas to pick up patients for appointments, creating more challenges for the caller.”

Stern also expects the increase in calls for need to continue into the summer with the shelter-in-place orders, “just as we see after a winter storm event.”

“Even during a pandemic, people will still need abortions, and regardless of when or why folks need support accessing abortions, we are here to accompany them,” Stern said.

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/US/abortion-funds-increase-calls-coronavirus-pandemic/story?id=70703745&fbclid=IwAR2dwUCZd7ZxHbz8CtBB4d6W5afs8E5XrkpMt2tc2No_3gx1id1bbjr5vvQ

Reproductive health advocates call the Republican legislation even worse than the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, which for decades has eroded low-income people’s access to abortion care.

House Republicans, including Reps. Jim Jordan (OH) and Mike Conaway (TX), introduced the “Protecting Life in Crisis Act,” which would prevent COVID-19 health-care funding from covering abortion services.
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Congressional Republicans want to make sure abortion care won’t be covered for laid-off workers benefiting from federal COVID-19 health-care funding.

As the United States reaches unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering legislation to help laid off and furloughed workers keep their health insurance. The proposal, which is included in the $3 trillion stimulus plan unveiled this week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), would fully subsidize the cost of COBRA, the program that allows laid-off workers to stay on their former employer’s insurance plan if they can pay the full premiums.

On May 8, several dozen House Republicans responded by introducing the “Protecting Life in Crisis Act,” which would prevent any federal COVID-19 health-care funding from going towards COBRA premiums for insurance plans that cover abortion.

A House vote on the latest stimulus plan, known as the HEROES Act, is expected on Friday.

Reproductive health advocates call the anti-choice proposal even worse than the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, which has eroded low-income people’s access to abortion care for decades.

“The Hyde Amendment is problematic, [and] has been for the 45-plus years that it has been around. … Adding language and abortion restrictions onto a new funding package create[s] new abortion restrictions,” Jamille Fields Allsbrook, director of women’s health and rights at the Center for American Progress, told Rewire.News.

Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration have prioritized anti-choice demands throughout the fiscal response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Here you have anti-choice members seeking to take advantage of something that, quite frankly, has nothing to do with abortion … and placing it onto a funding relief package,” Fields Allsbrook said.

Under COBRA, a former (or deceased) employee and their family is eligible for “continuation coverage” that allows them to temporarily retain their current health-care benefits, but typically at a much higher cost. The proposed stimulus package aims to fully subsidize the costs of COBRA premiums, a path that some have criticized as a concession to insurance industry lobbying.

One hundred and fifty-three million people in the United States rely on employer-sponsored health insurance. The high cost of COBRA means that many who lose their job are unable to afford to use it. That underscores the need for Medicaid access and plans on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace that may suit their needs, Fields Allsbrook said.

It’s among the sharpest intersections between the COVID-19 unemployment crisis and public health. “With the pandemic, many are learning the struggles of having their insurance linked to their job,” Dr. Kristyn Brandi, an OB/GYN in New Jersey and board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Rewire.News.

New research from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that anti-choice restrictions on COVID-19 stimulus funding could prove difficult to implement for COBRA subsidies. According to Kaiser, most employers don’t know if their health insurance plan covers abortion care, complicating how unemployed or furloughed workers would receive COBRA subsidies if Republican efforts are successful.

For those with employee-sponsored health insurance, abortion care coverage can depend on a number of factors. Ten percent of workers with employer-sponsored health care work for a firm that excludes abortion care under some or all circumstances. Abortion coverage in an employer-sponsored insurance plan comes down to an employer’s policies and beliefs, the size of a business, and state and federal requirements.

According to the Kaiser report, firms with 5,000 or more employees are the most likely to have asked their insurer or a third-party administrator to exclude abortion or limit the circumstances under which it can be covered.

With restrictions like the one many congressional Republicans want to include in the upcoming COVID-19 relief package, “you’re just adding a new crisis on top of an existing crisis that we’re already managing” Fields Allsbrook said.

Both Fields Allsbrook and Brandi stressed the importance of demanding legislators ensure any relief package centers the needs of vulnerable populations, including people who can get pregnant.

“Now’s the time to be expanding health-care access as a general principle, not limiting it,” Fields Allsbrook told Rewire.News. “The same holds true for abortion coverage.”

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2020/05/14/lost-your-job-because-of-covid-19-republicans-want-to-restrict-your-abortion-coverage/

‘You cannot get a Covid-19 test if you are asymptomatic and no one is turning tests around in 48 hours,’ says campaigner

The ACLU argued the new policy could force some women into being forced to postpone their abortion until a date which is beyond the state’s legal deadline for having the procedure ( fstop/iStock )

Women in Arkansas are being blocked from getting abortions due to new rules forcing them to track down a test for coronavirus and get a negative result beforehand.

A federal judge has upheld the rules after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the state over the new policy and stated it infringes the constitutional right to having a pregnancy terminated.

The ACLU, which represents the only abortion clinic in the entire state, argued the coronavirus tests are very difficult to procure and abortions are timely procedures which should not be delayed by the obstacle of obtaining a test.

Holly Dickson, legal director at ACLU of Arkansas, hit out at the judge’s decision to uphold the new rules.

She said: “The urgency of the situation in Arkansas cannot be overstated. People cannot pause their pregnancies, and this politically-motivated restriction is already pushing care out of reach. This ruling will extend that harm.”

The ACLU argued the new policy could force some women into postponing their abortions until a date which is beyond the state’s legal deadline for having the procedure. The cutoff point is 21 weeks and six days after a woman’s last period.

Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said: “Make no mistake, Arkansas politicians are outright barring people who have decided to have an abortion from getting one and instead forcing them to stay pregnant and have a child against their will.

“A state should never prevent people from making a decision about a pregnancy that is best for themselves and their families. But doing so during the pandemic, when people are losing their jobs and doing everything they can just to keep their families healthy and make ends meet, is beyond cruel. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that people can get the care they need.”

Brian Miller, the district judge, concluded the choice was “agonisingly difficult” to reach due to the new rules curbing people’s freedom but argued the need to safeguard public health during a global pandemic made the policy acceptable.

He said: “This directive applies equally to all surgical procedures and does not single out abortion providers or surgical abortions.”

Leslie Rutledge, Arkansas attorney general, said the policy which demands a negative coronavirus test result for women who require abortions was one element of wider state rules which necessitates negative test results for any individual who needs to have any form of elective procedure.

Ilyse Hogue, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, fiercely criticised the policy and argued tests remain out of reach. “In Arkansas, a new law requires a negative #COVID test within 48 hours of a scheduled appointment to be able to get an abortion,” she tweeted. “Also in Arkansas, you cannot get a Covid-19 test if you are asymptomatic and no one is turning tests around in 48 hours. See what they did there? Terrible.”

Lori Williams, director of the abortion clinic, submitted an affidavit which explained she had been striving to help women track down Covid-19 tests for weeks but was struggling.

She said she had got in touch with more than 15 testing services but had not been able to find one which was able to provide tests for patients who are not showing symptoms of coronavirus and give results back in the space of 48 hours. This forced her to turn away eight abortion patients who were unable to conform to the new rules, Ms Williams said.

Arkansas, a state in the south of America, limited elective abortions during the coronavirus crisis but the restriction was relaxed at the end of April.

Politicians and abortion rights campaigners across the US have used the Covid-19 emergency to roll back abortion rights and attack women’s sexual and reproductive freedom. A slew of states have attempted to capitalise on coronavirus to introduce abortion bans.

Source: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/coronavirus-abortion-arkansas-negative-test-women-a9510301.html?fbclid=IwAR2hkBSYe5VFDoU-a4IIfV7waUVPALQOmPpiYDZADPzNeC7frG7dBseNIJo

Nik Zaleski underwent a medication abortion in California during the COVID-19 pandemic.NIK ZALESKI

Nik Zaleski underwent a medication abortion in California during the COVID-19 pandemic.NIK ZALESKI

Back in March, I made a difficult decision: whether to go outside—or not—to get an abortion.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed life for us all, but for me and people across the United States who need abortions, we have yet another decision to make; should we go outside and potentially expose ourselves to the virus or stay home with a pregnancy we don’t want to continue? My abortion was essential, so I went.

On March 16, the day the “shelter in place” order was announced in certain parts of California, I pulled up to the parking lot of my local Planned Parenthood to begin a medication abortion. I glanced at my phone before going in to find a text from a friend, “California is about to announce that six counties, including ours, won’t be allowed to leave our homes until April 7, in the next hour. Get everything you need before mass hysteria.” My heart sank.

In the steps between the car and the clinic doors, I worried: will I get stuck pregnant?

For the past decade, I have been working to protect abortion access as a cultural organizer, facilitator and storytelling advocate; unlike many legislators across the country, I have always known that abortion access is an essential service.

But there I was, alone in my car, four days after Trump declared a national state of emergency on March 13, wondering if the state would consider the procedure I needed to go on with my life, and carry out my purpose, to be essential.

In the steps between the car and the clinic doors, I worried: will I get stuck pregnant?

Could it be possible that although I live in one of the most progressive states in the country—with the resources to end an unwanted pregnancy, the ability to get an appointment within a week at a clinic close to home, a wide ecosystem of support, and an internal compass that was immediately certain of my decision—I would get stuck pregnant during a pandemic?

Abortion, Coronavirus, California, Reproductive rights, Abortion rights

Nik Zaleski underwent a medication abortion in California during the COVID-19 pandemic.NIK ZALESKI

I walked into the clinic and stood behind another woman in line. I listened anxiously to her check in—was she being turned away for services today? Would the government get to decide her destiny, to decide that her needs were non-essential?

When it was my turn, I told the receptionist I had just heard the news about sheltering in place. “Am I allowed to be here?” I asked. “Of course,” she assured me. I closed my eyes, took a breath, and silently thanked God and everyone who ever fought for abortion care before me—then I thanked her.

So while the world was dramatically changing outside, my plan stayed the same. I met with my provider, took the first pill, Mifepristone, to stop the pregnancy from developing, thanked her for her work and went home.

I woke up the next day, worked for a few hours, and took the remaining medication to terminate my pregnancy at home, where I was now observing the “shelter in place” order.

What is this global public health crisis teaching us right now? For me, COVID-19 has provided yet another opportunity to count my privileges.

My sister was with me throughout the day; she made chicken soup with Meyer lemons from our yard for dinner. In an extraordinarily disorienting time, the procedure was remarkably ordinary. I was pregnant, didn’t want to be, and was able to solve my problem safely in my home supported by my favorite person on the planet.

What is this global public health crisis teaching us right now? For me, COVID-19 has provided yet another opportunity to count my privileges; to be accountable to the resources I’ve been handed in this lifetime.

I am white, young, healthy, able-bodied, insured—inadequately, but insured nonetheless—and employed. I have a car to get groceries and money with which to buy them. That same car is the one I used to travel to my abortion appointment.

I have a safe and warm home where I can “shelter in place”; the same home I terminated my pregnancy in. If I contracted COVID-19, I would receive the medical services I need. In the clinic, I was able to get the medical service I needed—an abortion.

Abortion, Coronavirus, California, Reproductive rights

Nik Zaleski underwent a medical abortion in California in March 2020.NIK ZALESKI

I am now thinking about all of the people who are currently trying to get the abortion access they need.

As I read the headlines of politicians in a dozen states using the outbreak of COVID-19 to shutter clinics during the pandemic—forcing people to travel out of state—I think about the dilemma patients are faced with.

Should they follow the CDC’s guidance and cancel travel or get on a bus, plane, train, or car to cross a state line for care? This is care that grows more expensive, more complicated, and harder to find the longer they’re delayed.

For weeks now, people in Texas have been waking up unsure if their appointment will be cancelled as the legal whiplash of federal courts protects appointments one day and prohibits them the next. I am both afraid for those people, being forced to stay pregnant for longer than they’d like, and thankful that I was able to get the care I needed.

I think about young people in America who are currently navigating laws requiring them to go to a judge for permission, and who will now be receiving news alerts of courts shutting down.

I think of everyone who has to travel hundreds of miles because they happen to live in Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota or West Virginia—states with only one clinic that offers abortion services. And I think of those who may have to travel long distances for a later procedure. They will all have to make the same decision that I did—whether or not to go outside.

On that day in March, I was given a seven minute window into the level of anxiety so many people are experiencing for months on end.

The need for abortions does not subside during a pandemic, because people do not simply change their minds when abortion access gets more difficult. We know what is right for our bodies, our families, and our futures.

Between my car and reaching the reception desk on that day in March, I was given a seven minute window into the level of anxiety so many people are experiencing for weeks and months on end as they try to get the essential reproductive health services they need.

That seven minutes is why I work to ensure everyone who wants an abortion is able to get one—without barriers and without fear.

Nik Zaleski is a cultural strategist, playwright and director who works in the reproductive justice movement. She is a storyteller with We Testify, an organization dedicated to the leadership and representation of people who have abortions.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

Source: https://www.newsweek.com/abortion-covid-19-pandemic-california-1499410?fbclid=IwAR0jUGlBYhj5BZtqyRPc9W9YyVUBu9zdV6BdeO7n-T6G3jS4ZsEXOhjP7QU

Virginia is turning the page on years of abortion restrictions that have put care out of reach for many.

Here in Virginia, while these cases are being decided and lives hang in the balance, we will continue fighting to do what the people of Virginia elected us to do—take reproductive health decisions out of the hands of politicians and put them back where they belong, with patients and medical professionals.
Shutterstock

When Rachel Scruggs, a waitress and young mother in Manassas, Virginia, decided to have an abortion in 2018, she was forced to make a second appointment and wait 24 hours before coming back to the clinic for a medication abortion.

This delay was medically unnecessary, and it imposed a huge burden on Rachel and her family, forcing her to find transportation, lose wages, and arrange and pay for child care for her five-year-old son. We don’t want to hear these stories anymore in Virginia. Women deserve health care rooted in their best interest and in sound medical advice.

For most of the past two decades, anti-choice legislators controlled the Virginia House of Delegates and state senate, using their majority to introduce over 150 medically unnecessary laws designed to restrict access to safe, legal abortion care. These laws had nothing to do with protecting health and safety and everything to do with shaming patients and preventing families from accessing the reproductive health care they need. These demeaning laws have impacted the most marginalized in Virginia, and have disproportionately affected young people, rural residents, individuals with low incomes, and people of color.

As legislators, women of color, and Virginians, we have fiercely fought these anti-choice laws in the Virginia General Assembly. Now, Virginia is turning the page.

Last month, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed the Reproductive Health Protection Act (RHPA), a common-sense law that rolls back dangerous, politically motivated abortion restrictions that block access to one of the safest and most common medical procedures. We were proud to sponsor this law, which goes into effect July 1.

The evidence is clear: The vast majority of Virginians trust people to make their own reproductive health-care decisions, free from political interference. We agree. These decisions are private and need to remain between a patient, a medical professional, and those they love and trust.

There is no question that reversing decades of restrictions and policies rooted in politics and ideology rather than best medical practices will pave the way for all Virginians to have the ability to make the best decisions for themselves, their families, and their health.

We also know that the RHPA will remove barriers to care that have had an outsized impact on those with the fewest resources, perpetuating the structural economic inequalities that already exist in our society and unfairly harming the most vulnerable members of our communities.

When someone decides to have an abortion, it should be safe, affordable, and free from punishment or judgment. The RHPA rolls back restrictions that make exercising the constitutional right to abortion care nearly impossible for many. Restrictions like the mandatory 24-hour waiting period require patients to take time off work and lose vital income, find affordable childcare, and pay for transportation and lodging.

This can create additional barriers for those who have to travel to obtain abortion care. Around 92 percent of Virginia counties have no abortion care provider. By overturning the mandatory waiting periods and forced ultrasound law, women will be able to access abortion care when they need it and without medically unnecessary delays that disproportionately prevent lower-income women from exercising their rights and getting the health care they need.

Punishing people for deciding when and if to become parents and exercising their fundamental rights is shameful. It’s not who we are as Virginians.

The RHPA also rolls back targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws that are solely intended to shut down abortion clinics across the country and in Virginia. Before these laws went into effect, Virginia had 21 health centers that provided abortion services. After the TRAP laws’ implementation, this number was reduced to 15 centers that provide medication and procedural abortion care in a state with nearly 1.7 million women of reproductive age.

These laws require only abortion clinics, and not other similar medical facilities, to meet criteria like having a certain number of parking spaces or hallways of a given width—measures that have nothing to do with patient health and safety. When a facility cannot meet these requirements, which are completely irrelevant to patient care, the laws make these clinics shut down for no reason at all.

Data tells us Black women have the highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths in this country. Racial bias within the health-care system is a major factor, but it is clear that shutting down clinics that are the only place many women have to access care will only make this crisis worse. As leaders, we should be expanding access to health care, not restricting it.

Right now, across the country, all eyes are on the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation is waiting to see how this Court, with the addition of President Trump’s two anti-abortion justices, will determine a case that will set new legal precedent for how far access to safe and legal abortion can be curtailed under the law for generations to come.

The consequences of these decisions, and of our national laws around reproductive health care, cannot be understated. But here in Virginia, while these cases are being decided and lives hang in the balance, we will continue fighting to do what the people of Virginia elected us to do—take reproductive health decisions out of the hands of politicians and put them back where they belong, with patients and medical professionals. That is what the RHPA is about.

Thanks to the countless people who worked to make the RHPA a reality, we are proud to say that for those across the Commonwealth who have suffered because of these anti-choice laws, the right to safe and legal abortion will no longer exist in name only here in Virginia.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2020/05/15/as-black-women-leaders-we-are-tearing-abortion-restrictions-down-in-virginia/