COVID-19: An Opportunistic Attack on Reproductive Health

Entering her 50th year Choice Women’s Medical Center, Founder Merle Hoffman witnessed a lot. Imagine launching a reproductive health center that provides abortion two years before the Roe v. Wade case was legalized in 1973.

But it’s a pandemic of COVID-19, “one of the most difficult times we’ve faced, and I’ve faced it,” she says.

She points out not only the challenges of navigating new safety procedures, volume reductions and layoffs of employees, but also protesters against abortion shouting outside the medical center in Queens, NY. Not only do they maintain their presence throughout the pandemic, but they are also armed with graphic posters, but they are doubling in number because they don’t wear the face masks recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. increase.

“Their attitude is that we are vulnerable now and women are vulnerable, so let’s harass and abuse them more verbally,” says Hoffman.

It’s a tactic that has been witnessed all over the country. In the early weeks of the pandemic, some conservative state governments saw the opportunity to revoke women’s reproductive rights.Women already Unbalancedly affected by coronavirusWhen financial instability and lack of childcare outweigh the problem and 12 states consider abortion a “non-essential” or “selective” procedure. Some governors and prosecutors alleged to seize personal protective equipment (PPE) needed by hospital medical professionals. Others have claimed that the procedure may be delayed.

Their claim is not supported by medical evidence. A Statement of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology And six other prominent medical institutions refuted this claim, emphasizing that “abortion is an integral part of comprehensive medical care” and should not be delayed.

“It’s also a time-sensitive service, and after a few weeks, or even days, delays can increase risk or make it completely inaccessible,” the statement said. “The consequences of not being able to have an abortion have serious consequences for a person’s life, health, and well-being …. Community-based and hospital-based clinicians are not at risk of access to abortion during this period. We need to consider collaboration so that we can. “

However, pregnancy abortion services in Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, West Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Was still banned for weeks.. The ban on Arkansaw has not yet been overturned. Hoffman did not close his choice without the challenge of the local government.

“It was decided immediately — I did it anyway — it was [we are] It’s an essential service, “she says. “And I have no way to shut it down, and I’ll be somehow vulnerable to that kind of political guidance.”

Cindy Pearson, Executive Director National Women’s Health NetworkKeep in mind that these states have a long history of digging into the reasons for banning or limiting abortion, and calling non-essential services requires the latest excuses.

“It had nothing to do with COVID,” she claims. “I was fed up with the depth of trying to stop pregnant women and people from knowing that they were best for themselves and their families. A pandemic as an excuse for them to try to limit abortion again. I hate to see words like. ”

Americans are being urged to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, and more healthcare providers are looking to telemedicine appointments to see and treat patients today. There are options for those seeking abortion to meet their restrictions and concerns-politics Avoid it. Women who choose to end their pregnancy rather than going to the clinic for a surgical abortion will have an abortion by taking two Food and Drug Administration-approved tablets to induce a miscarriage at home. I can. Pills, mifepristone and misoprostol have been available for 20 years, Pearson adds.

“This is a safe and effective option and we want more people to know,” she explains. “We know why people don’t, partly because it’s hard to get. If something isn’t widely available, you’re less likely to know about it.”

The FDA has associated risk assessment and mitigation strategies (REMS) (targeting somehow unsafe medicines) with mifepristone. Mifepristone must be administered directly by a specially certified provider, even though it is approved for home use. Jamila Perritt, a Washington, DC doctor, activist, and abortion provider, has restrictions that can include additional state signature forms, ultrasonography, and two visits with a waiting period in some states, medical or scientific. Evidence. Without them, she says she can easily, easily and safely write a prescription and call it to the patient’s local pharmacy.

“REMS related to abortion drugs is not based on safety, but on political ideology,” Perritt said. “This is an attempt to limit access to this drug in a way that does not occur with other drugs. It is selected and treated differently just because it is being used to provide abortion services. . ”

The National Women’s Health Network recognizes the need for change as the state imposes restrictions on travel, business, and normal outdoor functions, and as mentioned earlier, surgical abortions took place in the early weeks of the pandemic. Did.It started #MailTheAbortionPill A campaign was launched in the first week of April, calling on the FDA not only to lift current regulations, but also to allow medical professionals to mail pills in the post-coronavirus world. Pregnant people can “get the pills wherever they take the pills,” the campaign declares.

It’s crazy to tell people, “I’m at home, don’t fly, don’t go to work, get in the car, and travel for hours one way to get pills that can be taken at home.” .. “Pearson said. “That’s why we launched it in a hurry.”

The campaign hasn’t elicited a response from the FDA yet, but it has helped make a difference in court. Last month, a federal judge in Maryland suspended the face-to-face requirement for an abortion drug during a pandemic, citing it as a “substantial obstacle” and allowing healthcare providers to mail it directly to patients. .. PBS NewsHour report. Pearson does not admit this ruling — the National Women’s Health Network was not the plaintiff in the proceedings — but she, with their efforts, Letter to the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services It demands that the Trump administration not be involved in the designation of REMS and will influence the decisions of judges in addition to climate change.

Although the mailing option is short-term, as it only takes place in the event of a public health emergency, this ruling was a victory. Abigail Aiken, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ Public Service School, is familiar with the challenges of women in Texas, especially in provincial cities, and seeks medical abortion that was already faced before COVID-19. .. (Not covered by most health insurance plans or Medicaids), long travel times (96% of cities do not have an abortion provider), overnight accommodation, finding childcare. She was interested in the influence of the pandemic. She may have a high demand for abortion due to financial instability and may have difficulty or want to go to the clinic due to the risk of infection when there is a state ban. About abortion (a policy move she called an “opportunistic attack on reproductive health”).

In a recently published study Obstetrics and gynecology, Aiken and the research team have found that COVID-19 and its barriers have led more people to seek abortion outside the formal medical environment, such as clinics and hospitals. Tracking data from AidAccess, an online telemedicine service that allows you to request and consult a drug-based abortion drug, increased the percentage of requests by 27% across the United States from March 20th to April 11th. ..

Requests to assist in access almost doubled in the states with the highest cases of COVID and in the states that tried to limit abortion. In New York, which was a hotspot at the time, there was a 60% increase. In Texas, which had banned all abortions for about four weeks, there was a 94% increase. However, there are clear state laws prohibiting telemedicine drug abortions.

Very important about these findings is that Aiken knows that a telemedicine abortion model is possible, as Aiken told Women’s eNews. Clinic doctors can prescribe abortion medications and call them to the pharmacy, just as a dermatologist has a remote consultation. This is how Britain responded to the pandemic. The area has reviewed its policies and has become completely remote, including medical abortions.

“We see demand for these remote services, but there is no policy environment to enable them,” she says. “I’m looking ahead and wondering what will happen with the REMS decision and how it will change things. I think there may be changes in some places, but they State-level limits need to be changed. ”

However, the data in this study were obtained only from demand, and telemedicine abortion had a disproportionate impact on people of color and the poor who were already marginalized and struggling to access abortion services. I couldn’t focus on what I could give.

“This crossroads between COVID and assisted reproductive technology and racial injustice is the crossroads that many of us have lived in for a long time and are definitely working on,” says Perritt. “My practice and the way I provide care have always worked at these crossroads, understanding that people seeking assisted reproductive medicine do so in a vacuum. The decision to get pregnant, have an abortion, or use contraception is always based on the circumstances in which people live. At this moment, for many of the people I care for in the community, we Life is very complex and what is happening in the world really reminds us that we are shaping the way we make decisions about reproductive health. Similarly. “

All of these obligations, hoops, and barriers are more likely to affect people with less resources. However, COVID-19 is not an entity that condemns the threat of abortion.

“Sure, the COVID pandemic has exacerbated those things, but it’s important to understand that it didn’t create these barriers,” says Perritt. “A greater threat to abortion access and clinic sustainability is these legislative practices that limit care.”

About the writer: Alyssa Fisher, who recently received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida, is a 2020 Fellow. SySyms Journalism Excellence Program * At Women’s eNews, Sy Syms Foundation.. The Women’s News Fellowship’s SySyms Journalistic Excellence Program supports editing and development opportunities for editorial internships in pursuit of journalism excellence.

Sy Syms Journalism Excellence Program:

Women’s News’ SySyms Journalistic Excellence program was launched in 2014 with the support of the Sy Syms Foundation. Fellowships provide support and development opportunities for editorial internships seeking journalism excellence.

“For democracy to flourish, all voices must be heard,” says Marcy Syms, founding councilor and chairman of the Sy Syms Foundation. “Through investigative journalism, Women’s News understands the essence of great journalism. The Sy Syms Foundation is proud of this collaboration to support today’s latest female journalists.”

Women’s eNews trains, trains and supports new journalists with a focus on social justice and women’s rights as part of their mission to create social change for women and girls through investigative journalism.

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