Earlier this month, lawmakers in states like Texas, Ohio and Alabama ordered all non-essential medical procedures to be postponed until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides—including all abortion procedures.
Over the weeks that followed, the legality of abortion in these states has been in constant limbo—in Texas, for example, changing at least five times in two weeks.
Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), on the other hand, have been allowed to remain open in some of the very states that have banned abortion and forced clinic closures during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Ironically, these centers, by definition, should be deemed non-essential as because they do not provide life-sustaining medical support. In fact, they only function to encourage women to continue their pregnancies.
CPCs are biased—often based on religious ideologies instead of medical training. CPC staff provide false information about pregnancy to women in an attempt to keep them from having abortions, and no CPC will refer women to an abortion provider. In fact, some CPCs may force women to watch anti-abortion films, slide shows, photographs and hear biased lectures.
This juxtaposition of open CPCs and closed abortion clinics proves that these closures have nothing to do with coronavirus—and everything to do with the desire of lawmakers to control women’s bodies and force them to have children they don’t want and often times can’t afford.
In an email, NARAL Pro-Choice America spokesperson Amanda Thayer condemned the anti-abortion centers.
“Anti-choice organizations are and have always been consumed with ending legal abortion by any means necessary, and that they’re exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to push their unpopular agenda illustrates there is no low they will not sink to,” Thayer said. “Amid a global pandemic, they are actively pushing disinformation and bucking science to suggest that abortion is not essential or time-sensitive care.”
According to an email by Thomas Glessner, president of anti-abortion organization the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), the pregnancy centers remain open because “abortion is more harmful than COVID-19.”
Glessner’s comment is not only insulting, but it also ignores the fact that the coronavirus has caused over 30,000 deaths across the United States.
Republican lawmakers in Alabama, Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana and Iowa have all limited elective medical procedures, including abortions. In defense, they claim they want to preserve hospital beds and PPE for those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.
In retort, abortion providers say that unlike elective surgeries, access to safe reproductive care can’t be delayed—especially in light of alarming reports that the virus will continue into the summer. Abortions are time-sensitive procedures, as some women have medical conditions that can make each additional day of a pregnancy life-threatening—and some states prohibit abortions beginning as early as 20 weeks into a pregnancy.
Pro-choice abortion clinics exist to support women and allow them to make fully informed choices about their reproductive health.
And since the onset of COVID-19, there has been an increase in deaths by women attempting to cause abortions themselves instead of utilizing safe practices that abortion centers provide.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, called Texas’ attempts to ban medical abortions “unconstitutional.”
“None of it is medically justified, all of it is unconstitutional, and women are being thrown into a state of fear and uncertainty” said Northup.
In late March, the Center for Reproductive Rights—alongside the the Lawyering Project and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America—sued Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other state officials to ensure that patients can continue to access abortion services during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Since then, these pro-choice groups have withdrawn their request for the Supreme Court step in to halt Texas’s efforts to restrict abortions during the pandemic, but new legal battles in Louisiana and Tennessee began Tuesday.)
“These emergency abortion bans are an abuse of power and part of an ongoing effort to use sham justifications to shut down clinics and make an end run around Roe v. Wade,” said Northup. “These same states have tried to ban abortion access for years; no one should be fooled that this is warranted by the current crisis. We will use every legal means to ensure that abortion care remains available during this critical time.”
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