(Tuscaloosa, Alabama) Yellowhammer Fund, an abortion fund and reproductive justice organization headquartered in Alabama, condemns the state government’s decision to close its abortion providers during the COVID-19 outbreak and commends the ACLU for its efforts to block the order.
“Declaring that abortion is not an essential healthcare service or that it can be put on hold for a few weeks or longer in the same way an elective surgery can be is both factually inaccurate and grossly cruel to those facing an unwanted pregnancy,” said Candace E. C. O’Brien, Healthcare Services Programs Manager for the Yellowhammer Fund. “Unlike true elective procedures, an abortion cannot be put off indefinitely without increasing health risks to the patient or hitting legal limitations enforced by the government.”
Citing a recent increase in callers to the Fund help line since the novel corona virus began spreading, O’Brien notes that even more patients are finding abortion services more difficult to obtain because of financial concerns, and that is already increasing the number of patients needing late first trimester and early second trimester care. Yellowhammer Fund is already seeing a surge in out of state callers who are no longer able to access a termination because of similar rightwing political attacks in their own state, leaving Alabama as their closest option for care. Without clinics in Alabama, pregnant people locally will also be forced to travel across multiple states and even stay overnight in hotels, violating public health advice meant to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, risk of contacting or spreading the virus through a visit to an abortion clinic is much smaller than going to any other health care provider. “Unlike truly elective medical procedures, abortion is performed in stand-alone clinics, reducing the likelihood of patient exposure to and transmission of COVID-19, which cannot be said about surgeries in hospitals or visits to a community medical clinic,” explains O’Brien. “Finally, abortion actually reduces long-term need for medical care that will be required for prenatal and post-partum office visits as well as the resources a hospital labor and birth require. Abortion is quite literally healthcare in this sense – essential healthcare that cannot be delayed or ignored. For any person facing an unwanted pregnancy, especially now that we are in a worldwide pandemic, abortion needs to be even more accessible.”
Yellowhammer urges the Department of Health to reverse their decision and keep Alabama’s clinics open. Or, if it truly wants to improve health outcomes, it could go further and end medically unnecessary restrictions on care. “Now is the time for the Alabama Department of Public Health to make abortion access easier – by removing an unnecessary waiting period and by allowing clinics to mail out medication to reduce the need for a patient risk potential exposure,” adds O’Brien. “What it isn’t time for, however, is for the ADPH to play deadly political games and make what is already a public health crisis that much worse.”