Several medical and advocacy groups have insisted abortion services should be considered as essential health care during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic and not subject to delays or a reduction of availability that will affect other health services.
Noting that some health systems “are implementing plans to cancel elective and non-urgent procedures to expand hospitals’ capacity to provide critical care” to victims of the crisis, a joint statement by several health organizations has urged that abortion providers should be exempt from such cutbacks.
A “Joint Statement on Abortion Access During the COVID-19 Outbreak” was issued Wednesday by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology, together with the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, the American Gynecological & Obstetrical Society, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the Society for Academic Specialists in General Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Society of Family Planning, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
“While most abortion care is delivered in outpatient settings, in some cases care may be delivered in hospital-based settings or surgical facilities. To the extent that hospital systems or ambulatory surgical facilities are categorizing procedures that can be delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic, abortion should not be categorized as such a procedure,” the statement declares.
“Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care,” the statement insists. “It is also 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.”
The statement echoes a similar appeal by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which “calls on leaders to ensure that outpatient abortion clinics can remain open and urges hospitals to continue to provide abortion care” even while other medical services are reduced or suspended.
According to the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA), a surgery “may be deemed urgent and necessary if the treating physician decides that a months-long delay would increase the likelihood of significantly worse morbidity or prognosis for the patient.”
In Wednesday’s joint statement, the group of signatories declare that they “do not support COVID-19 responses that cancel or delay abortion procedures,” while adding that community-based and hospital-based clinicians “should consider collaboration to ensure abortion access is not compromised during this time.”