Mississippi, Texas, and Ohio are trying to include abortions in a list of "non-essential" surgical procedures that must be delayed during the public health crisis.
While the entire nation battles against the Coronavirus epidemic, pro-choice activists thought their local governments would finally leave a woman's right to choose alone and focus on slowing down the spread of the deadly virus. Oh, how wrong they were. There's no better time than a public health crisis to further impede women's rights, is there? Dangerously enough, the states of Mississippi, Texas, and Ohio all moved to limit abortion as part of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CNN reports. The three states plan to include abortions in their list of nonessential medical procedures, which means those who wish to have an abortion as their states grapple with various shutdowns will not be able to access them - forcing women to carry their pregnancies to term.
The list of nonessential medical services is being compiled because the number of patients with Coronavirus is exponentially increasing. As there is only a limited amount of resources, services that aren't absolutely needed will no longer be undertaken. While abortions may not seem like the most important medical procedure in the wake of a quickly disseminating and deadly virus, they can be urgent. Therefore, pro-choice advocacy groups have decried the motion to include abortions in this list. They claim that government officials are exploiting a national health crisis in order to further a political agenda that will have serious repercussions on women.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Republican Governor of Mississippi Tate Reeves explained that he would "take action" should the state's single clinic choose to provide elective abortions after the state health department mandates that all non-essential surgery be postponed. "We're doing everything in our power and have for many years to make Mississippi the safest place in America for unborn children," he stated. "It is without question that the lone clinic in Jackson does, in fact, operate doing procedures that are elective and not required, and therefore they should be following the guidelines as offered by the state department of health." He later claimed that the order came "not because we're trying to say anything other than we need to protect" personal protective equipment for those affected by COVID-19.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott's followed suit in the decision to withhold abortions during this period, as confirmed by Attorney General Ken Paxton. Violating this order, Paxton affirmed, would result in fines of up to $1,000 or 180 days imprisonment. Needless to say, women's rights groups in the state are enraged. President of Whole Woman's Health Amy Hagstrom Miller slammed the Governor's order. Her organization runs three clinics in Texas. She stated, "[The order forces] people to delay much-needed care and possibly exacerbate their health situations by doing so. Patients cannot wait until this pandemic is over to receive safe abortion care."
In Ohio, Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson sent letters to three abortion providers last week, informing them they must comply with the state health department's recent orders to discontinue "non-essential" medical procedures. In the recent past, all three states moved to limit abortion entirely, not just during times of health crises. Meanwhile, at least 25 states have chosen to follow federal recommendations to delay elective surgical procedures, a suggestion made by White House coronavirus task force member and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma. Regarding abortions, however, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a statement calling for state lawmakers to not to classify them as "elective and non-urgent." They argued that abortion is "a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible," which, of course, it is. While the country contends with a public health crisis unlike any other, this move is, without a doubt, unfair, exploitative, and just plain wrong.