In the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, hospitals began prioritizing care and governments began placing limits on non-essential services, but in many jurisdictions, abortion was deemed essential.
In the United States, some states such as Arkansas, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas sought to restrict or ban abortion during the pandemic, arguing that medical supplies should be saved for frontline health care workers dealing with coronavirus patients. Other states such as New York declared abortion essential.
In Europe, the French health minister talked about needing to liberalize abortion laws while the United Kingdom issued new rules to allow abortion pills to be dispensed to women at home after they consulted with a doctor over the phone.
In Canada, CTV reported that “while all provinces and territories have placed new limits on the kinds of surgeries and procedures being provided, they’ve confirmed to CTVNews.cathat regular abortion access will continue.” While every province was cancelling all elective surgeries and limiting surgical care to cancer and trauma patients, all ten provinces and three territories either labeled abortion essential or vowed that access would not be affected by limitations on surgery.
Action Canada for Sexual Health complained that there were “new barriers and old barriers to (surgical) abortion access,” without specifying the specific problems. Action Canada’s communications director Laura Neidhart admitted to the Huffington Post, however, that Mifegymiso, the abortion pill, seemed readily available throughout the country. She said, however, that not all provinces cover the entire $300-$450 cost.
Even before state and provincial lockdown orders were announced, the Washington-based National Abortion Federation and Ottawa-based Action Canada issued a joint statement calling upon governments to “ensure that abortion facilities remain open.”
Campaign Life Coalition launched a petition to all provincial and territorial premiers urging them to close abortion facilities so that medical equipment could be reserved for health care workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The petition stated: “Abortion is not an essential service. Pregnancy is not a ‘disease’ that needs to be ‘cured.’ Abortion is an elective ‘choice’ for ‘pro-choice’ women who decide they no longer wish to be pregnant.”
Last month, Antonella Lavalanet, a medical officer in the World Health Organization’s maternal health team labeled abortion “essential” and called upon countries where contraception and abortion are legal to guarantee access. In its official “guidance notes” to countries, WHO listed the full spectrum of “reproductive health services” as essential.
In Europe, more than 100 pro-abortion, feminist, and human rights groups such as Amnesty International signed a joint letter calling upon all governments to “ensure that abortion is treated as essential and time-sensitive health care and guarantee access to care in a timely manner,” along with a dozen other pro-abortion demands, including lifting all regulatory or statutory limits on the practice.