Abortion is essential. Trying to ban it using coronavirus is wrong.

By Karen Middleton


Even as the nation collectively tries to get through a pandemic, anti-abortion public officials in other states are trying to ban abortion,using coronavirus as an excuse. This is wrong. Abortion is essential, it is a Constitutional right, it must remain available, and Gov Polis’ administration is doing the right thing by ensuring it does so here in Colorado.


As the American College of Obstetrician Gynecologists put it in their ‘Joint Statement on Abortion Access During the COVID-19 Outbreak’, “Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care. It is also a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible. The consequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.


“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology, together with the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, the American Gynecological & Obstetrical Society, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the Society for Academic Specialists in General Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Society of Family Planning, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, do not support COVID-19 responses that cancel or delay abortion procedures. Community-based and hospital-based clinicians should consider collaboration to ensure abortion access is not compromised during this time.”


Several states – Ohio, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Kentucky – have tried to enact abortion bans using coronavirus as an excuse, and there are ongoing legal challenges in the courts.The Texas case is in limbo. A lower court struck it down, with Judge Lee Yeakel, a George W. Bush appointee, noting, “ Regarding a woman’s right to a pre-fetal-viability abortion, the Supreme Court has spoken clearly. There can be no outright ban on such a procedure…


“This court will not speculate on whether the Supreme Court included a silent ‘except-in-a-national-emergency clause’ in its previous writings on the issue,” he added.


However, an appeals court upheld the ban, so the case continues. We are looking at a serious test of the Trump judiciary, and a real time example of why US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with Sen Cory Gardner’s help, has been stacking the federal courts with unqualified, extremist judges.


Banning abortion using coronavirus as an excuse is political, not medical. As noted in the appeal to the Texas ban, abortion care requires minimal use of personal protective equipment. And no personal protective equipment is used in administering a medication abortion. Furthermore, forcing a pregnant person to carry an unintended pregnancy to term puts far more strain on the medical system than an early abortion. The longer a pregnancy goes, the more it requires in medical care and medical provider time and equipment.


If anything, access to reproductive health care should be expanded, not restricted, during coronavirus. It’s efficient and effective. We should increase the use of telehealth for contraception and abortion care to reduce travel and the risk of in-person visits. Medication abortion, which is approved by the FDA for up 10 weeks of pregnancy, should be available by mail – it’s safe, effective, and can be administered at home with telehealth supervision.


It’s also time to end both the federal and state funding ban on abortion care for poor women, which serves no purpose. It effectively ties a Constitutional right to how much money you have. But until that happens, the Cobalt abortion fund can help fill the gap. We are seeing increased numbers of people asking for help from the fund and increased financial strain on patients, which we expect will continue for the foreseeable future.


Using coronavirus as an excuse to ban abortion is a reminder why pro-choice state legislators, Governors, and Attorney Generals matter. And why the work of grassroots organizations like Cobalt are so critical. We cannot count on protection at the federal level. We must fight to ensure our rights are protected in the states.


Colorado has been and should be a state that respects that ability of individuals to make the health care decisions that are right for them, free from stigma, systemic barriers, and politics – including political efforts to ban abortion using a pandemic as justification.