Officials in the US states of Ohio and Texas are using the coronavirus as a politically expedient excuse to halt abortions - a move that threatens women's and girls' health and rights.
On March 20, the Ohio Attorney General's office reportedly ordered clinics that provide abortions to stop "non-essential" and "elective" surgical abortions. Earlier in the week, the Ohio Department of Health issued a directive to stop nonessential surgeries, to save the protective equipment healthcare professionals needed to care for COVID-19 patients. The directive never mentioned abortion services.
Ohio's abortion clinics are fighting back, and Planned Parenthood's Ohio affiliates are keeping their doors open for this procedure.
In Texas, the governor confirmed that an order to halt non-essential surgeries would include most abortions.
Access to routine health care will be challenging across the US because of COVID-19, but abortion care should not be delayed - especially in states like Texas and Ohio that already severely restrict access to abortion. During this pandemic, people will become pregnant who do not want to be and their right to choose an abortion should not be restricted.
Abortion is essential health care. Always. Even in a pandemic. Being able to choose when, or if, to continue a pregnancy allows women and girls to reach their full potential. It is also an internationally recognized and constitutionally protected right. A woman's ability to make this choice affects every aspect of her life, and that of her whole family.
The pandemic may also add to concerns people have about becoming pregnant. Some may fear COVID-19 could harm a pregnancy or worry they won't have a job or access to good prenatal care. These concerns may become more pressing as the pandemic continues, as people possibly lose access to contraception due to disruptions in health care and social services.
State health departments have a challenge to protect public health, and it makes sense to try to save protective equipment for health care workers. But authorities can do this by helping pregnant people access timely abortion care using pills that end pregnancy. Trying to stop abortions puts people's health and lives at risk. As US medical professionals work around the clock, officials in Ohio and Texas have better things to do than play politics with women's bodies and lives.
Source: Human Rights Watch