GOP using pandemic as an excuse to block abortion which is essential health care – Salon

People keep getting sick and the economy is cratering, but for Republicans, hating women is still a majorpriority. Republican governors in Texas, Ohioand even Maryland are trying to use the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to block women from getting abortions, claiming that ending a pregnancyis a "nonessential" medical procedure that must be rescheduled, as is happening with non-emergency surgeries and other procedures that hospitals are delaying, to prepare for the expected crush of patients infected with COVID-19.

This excuse is farcical on its face, of course. Most abortions are performed not in hospitals, but outpatient clinics. A patient who goes to Planned Parenthood is not taking up space in a hospital because she is notgoing to the hospital. In order to get around this problem, the misogynists whocontrol the Republican Party are trying to argue that abortion clinics useup needed medical supplies that should go to hospitals instead. Thistoois a bad-faith argument, especially sinceDonald Trump is refusing to invoke his presidential powers to compelcompanies to manufacture those supplies.

We should see these arguments from Republicans as what they are: Excuses for doingwhat they have wanted to do all along,which is to punish women for having sex by forcing childbirth on them. But abortion is hardly a "nonessential" service,even in a public health crisis. Abortion is essential health care. Having ready access to abortion when it's needed only becomes more importantin a crisis such as this one.

Conservatives talk about abortion as if it were somefrivolous decision, made by women who are irresponsible and heedless of consequences. But research shows the exact opposite: Women get abortion to protect not only their own futures, but those of their children.

The Guttmacher Institute's survey of women who getabortions foundthat the "reasons most frequently cited were that having a child would interfere with a woman's education, work or ability to care for dependents (74%); that she could not afford a baby now (73%); and that she did not want to be a single mother or was having relationship problems (48%)." Not on the list of reasons, however, was having an abortion for the hell of it.


An ongoing research project at the University of California, San Francisco, called the Turnaway Study compares women who wanted abortions but didn't get them with women who were able to haveabortions as needed. What researchers have consistentlyfoundis that women who were deniedabortionsare more likely to experience life-threatening complications, more likely to be stuck in abusive relationships, more likely to have mental health issues, and less likely to have aspirational plans for the next year.

Because of all this, Planned Parenthood in Ohio has announced that itwill "continue providing essential procedures, including surgical abortion," in defiance of an apparent directive from Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican.

The coronavirus crisis only makes the need for accessible abortion all the more pressing, because being pregnant at a time like this is incredibly fraught. As the New York Times reported on Sunday, fertility clinics across the country are canceling procedures like in-vitro fertilization in part because doctors cannot, in good conscience, recommend pregnancy right now.

But the physical risks are minor compared to the larger social and economic concerns facing women right now. Predictions for the unemployment rate suggest it may soar as high as 30% in the second quarter of this year, which would beworse than the peak levelsduring the Great Depression. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are negotiating how generous to make the economic stimulus bill for ordinary people, but even the superior Democratic bill falls far short of replacing the full incomes of people thrown out of work.Having a baby is an economic risk even in good times. Right now, it'smore than understandable if that's a risk many womendon't want to take until things turn around which may take years.

Of course, the real reason that conservatives want to classify abortion as "nonessential" has little to do with health or economic concerns, and everything to do with sex. It's all about shaming and stigmatizing people, especially women, who have sex for pleasure instead of as strictly a procreative process within heterosexual marriage.

There's nothing puritans lovemore than than theopportunity to shame and police other people for experiencing pleasure. Unfortunately, the coronavirus crisis offers these modern-day crusaders against immorality an all-purpose excuse for their urge to punish others for having fun. Whatever the "official" excuses being offered by anti-choicers for pushing to ban abortion during the coronavirus pandemic may be,it's really all about thedesire to demonize and punish sexually active women to the greatest possible extent.

How can we know this for sure? Because none of the people trying to block abortion access right now are talking about the necessary preventive care that can help people get through this crisis without experiencing unwanted pregnancy: contraception. On the contrary, the same Republicans who are trying to use this crisis as an excuse to ban abortion have also been fighting for years to reduce access to birth control, by trying to keep insurance companies from covering it or preventing state funds from going to clinics likePlanned Parenthoodthat make contraception affordable.

But if we're going to get through this crisis, we willneedto be more generosity, not less, towards people's desire to find pleasure and comfort where they can including throughsex. People are locked up in their houses, unable to socialize with people other than, in most cases, a spouse or a partner. It exposes the deeply mean-spirited nature of the anti-choice movement that its leaders are so eager topush an anti-sex agenda at a moment when sex is one of the bestsources of solace millions of people have.

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GOP using pandemic as an excuse to block abortion which is essential health care - Salon

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