COVID19 is having an unprecedented impact on the lives of billions of people. But a robust and effective COVID19 response must not be a vehicle for denying access to essential health care services.
NHeLP is fighting to protect access to the range of critical services that people — especially low-income and historically vulnerable communities — need in order to live their lives. Yes, even in a pandemic. Especially in a pandemic.
Anti-abortion politicians seize any opportunity to try to limit access to abortion care. In an outrageous but unsurprising move, officials in various states are playing politics with health care and attempting to curtail abortion access. A group of Texas providers have had to turn to the court for relief so that they could continue to deliver essential, time-sensitive services during the COVID-19 pandemic. This after anti-abortion members of Congress delayed emergency relief legislation in order to add anti-abortion language. Exploiting an emergency funding bill in the midst of a public health crisis shows just how far these politicians will go to push their agenda.
Abortion care may be a favorite political target but at its core it is an essential component of comprehensive health care, as confirmed by medical experts like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It is not elective. It can’t be delayed. Forcing someone to continue a pregnancy against their will negatively impacts a person’s life, health, and well-being.
We need politicians and health officials to step up to the plate right now. First, stop trying to score political points during a crisis, and recognize that most people support access to abortion care. Pointless disputes over abortion distract from evidence-based solutions to get us through this pandemic safely. Creating new barriers to abortion access and forcing people to travel farther for care if they even have the resources to do so will make a terrible public health crisis infinitely worse.
Second, let’s start talking seriously about increasing access to medication abortion, a safe and effective method that can easily be prescribed through telehealth and mailed or delivered to patients. People don’t stop needing abortion care because there’s a national emergency. Travel is difficult and money is tight. Rules around telehealth and prescription drug coverage are evolving in response to the pandemic, but current FDA and state policies overly restrict the use of telehealth for medication abortion. Twenty-one state attorneys general and multiple medical provider organizations have urged that the rules be relaxed. If people must stay home and not go to medical facilities unless experiencing an emergency or serious symptoms of COVID-19, abortion care must be available at home. There can and must be more options for prescribing and receiving this medication. Abortion care has always been essential, and must remain so.