The coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on abortions.
In Australia, travel restrictions and isolation requirements due to Covid-19 have left doctors unable to fly interstate to perform later gestation abortions, prompting an urgent call for assistance.
The travel restrictions had especially affected a later gestation clinic in Victoria, which provides services to women whose lives may be at risk by continuing with the pregnancy or in cases of severe foetal abnormalities, according to the national not-for-profit sexual and reproductive health organisation Marie Stopes.
The doctors can not afford to quarantine when they get back to South Australia as they also provide services in their home state. They are trained provide the service up to 24 weeks’ gestation. There are very limited numbers of specialised doctors who can provide these terminations, making it hard for clinics to fill the gap with other staff.
In Australia, abortion is largely classified to be an elective or semi-elective procedure. While non-urgent elective surgeries have been cancelled to increase capacity for Covid-19 patients, critical gynaecological procedures, including abortion, are classified as essential and urgent. But there are other challenges to access.
In the US, there is some hope, as providers in the states of Ohio and Texas are granted temporary relief.
In Texas, a federal district judge granted abortion providers a temporary restraining, allowing them to continue through April 13, after attorney general Ken Paxton sought to ban abortion access during the coronavirus pandemic, saying it did not qualify as “essential” health care.
In Ohio, a judge struck down a similar policy put forth by the state’s health department.
“Patients will suffer serious and irreparable harm,” said Judge Lee Yeakel of the Western District of Texas. Only the Supreme Court has the power to decide whether a ban on abortions during a national crisis is constitutional, Yeakel said.
Women’s health advocates are seeking similar rulings in Oklahoma, Iowa, and Alabama, which have also sought to restrict abortion access amid the pandemic.