The Coronavirus Becomes an Excuse to Restrict Abortions – The New York Times

But in Texas, at least one abortion provider, Whole Womans Health, has had to interrupt care, canceling appointments for more than 150 patients at three locations on Monday alone. On Wednesday, Whole Womens Health sued the state in federal court over the restrictions.

Patients were crying and begging us to still let them come in, said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Womans Health, the clinic that brought the Supreme Court suit over the Texas restrictions. We have one woman who drove 250 miles to one of our clinics who is sort of camping out, not leaving, waiting for us to figure out a way for her to be seen.

A doctor who provides abortions elsewhere in the state told me that her patients pleaded with her to do the procedure when they came in for ultrasounds before the order went into effect, but she couldnt because Texas requires a 24-hour waiting period.

Abortion providers point out that they could use less scarce medical gear and reduce the risk of spreading the virus in waiting rooms if they could expand access to medication abortions via online consultation with a doctor. This kind of abortion involves dispensing pills; studies have shown it is safe and effective.

During the pandemic, it would be possible to provide medication abortion through 11 weeks of pregnancy without an in-person visit and by mailing pills to a patient, tweeted Dr. Daniel Grossman, a gynecology professor at the University of California, San Francisco. This would reduce the patient and clinicians risk of acquiring the virus and without the need for personal protective equipment.

The problem is that at least 18 states, including Texas, require the doctor who prescribes the abortion pills to be present when the medication is taken, which means patients have to go to a clinic two or three times (to date the pregnancy with an ultrasound, to take the pills, and sometimes for a follow-up visit). The Ohio Senate passed a tele-medicine abortion ban on March 4; the bill now awaits action in the House.

Despite the downsides, the push to use the coronavirus crisis to block access to abortion may just be getting started. This week, Mississippis governor threatened action against the states only clinic if it continued to perform abortions, without specifying what he meant. And dozens of anti-abortion groups sent a letter to Alex Azar, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, demanding the use of the governments broad emergency authority to urge abortion clinics to stop operating and prevent the expansion of abortion by telemedicine.

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The Coronavirus Becomes an Excuse to Restrict Abortions - The New York Times

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