In Texas, a woman was isolated with her family. She was afraid and carried a secret: she was eight weeks pregnant.
Even under normal circumstances, getting an abortion in Texas is described as “almost impossible“But during the Covid-19 pandemic, politicians from Texas and seven other states worked to try to end abortions. They undertook costly lawsuits restrict abortion in the name of health and safety, even if doctors have lined up against them.
Experts have called the most chaotic 30-day order since 2013, when Texas imposed severe restrictions on abortion clinics, which were later overturned by the Supreme Court.
Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia all found confusion and intermittent bans, as state anti-abortion politicians classified abortion services as non-essential and included abortion clinics in the bans on elective surgery. The orders left the women desperate, the appointments having been canceled, postponed and canceled again subject to court decisions.
“I’m afraid to go out,” said the Texas woman, who the Guardian does not name because her family does not know she is pregnant and is seeking an abortion. Her story was provided by WeTestify, a group that collects stories of women seeking abortion. “I just saw the news from Ohio and it scared me that I could not have an abortion on time,” she said of the restrictions in that state. “Now they did it in Texas. I do not know what to do. “
Abortion clinics across the United States face existential threats under normal circumstances. Providers and clinics regularly face state harassment, angry protesters and threats of violence.
Abortion providers have said that Covid-19 has exacerbated this struggle, with some states saying that abortions must be stopped during the pandemic to preserve hospital beds and personal protective equipment for workers.
“No one is exempt from the governor’s order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, at the start of the pandemic. “Those who violate the governor’s order will receive the full force of the law.” Paxton did not return a call for comments.
The American Medical Association, the country’s largest medical association, has described these regulations as “exploiting” the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Instead of saying, for example,” There should be no abortion “… [abortion opponents] are trying to create uncertainty about the reality on the ground, “said Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University and a specialist in reproductive rights.
At the same time, clinic directors anecdotally reported an increase in demand amid the countless uncertainties raised by the pandemic. More than 26 million Americans have lost their jobs, with more unemployment claims expected, and at least 55,000 people have died from the virus. A clinic in Wichita, Kansas, reported an almost threefold increase in the number of patients, CBS reported.
“People are delaying all kinds of medical care to avoid hospitals. You can’t pause a pregnancy, so imagine being forced into this position – it must be terrifying, “said Right Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation.
Texas politicians’ decision to ban abortion sparked a month-long ping pong of court battles. As Covid-19 ferociously spread to the United States in March and April, federal court decisions have restored, and then abolished, access to abortion several times, sometimes within hours of each other.
On March 23, Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a executive order stopping all elective surgical procedures, specifically calling for abortion. Abortion providers took legal action on March 25, a federal court accepted them, and blocked the state order on March 30.
But the stay only lasted 21 hours. The fifth circuit court of appeal in New Orleans, Louisiana, reinstated the Texas decree on March 31. The court bench is arguably the most conservative in the country and is outwardly hostile to abortion rights.
“They were open one day, and they were closed the next day, and they were allowed to abort drugs one day, not the next day,” said Nikiya Natale, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, which helps women to pay. for abortions.
“We have had to cancel hundreds of appointments … and repeatedly,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates clinics in Texas and four other states. Whole Woman’s Health has sued Texas for continuing to perform abortions. “Women are sobbing on the phone, begging,” she said. The process, she said, looked like “abuse”.
At one time, only four Texas abortion clinics were open to serve a population of 5.8 million women of reproductive age, she said. Three of them were Whole Woman’s Health facilities. This left clinics across the state with a month’s worth of patients on a waiting list.
In other states, similar situations have occurred. A Tennessee epileptic woman with twins, premature daughters and a two-year-old son told a federal court about her attempt to have an abortion when she was caught in the state’s ban.
To avoid another pregnancy, she underwent tubal ligation and also used condoms. She was incredulous when the two failed. “I feel like science has failed me,” she said in court.
When she tried to obtain an abortion, arguments were already underway in court. One Friday in April, it was legal to have an abortion. But on Monday, before she could go to the clinic, it was banned.
“I was terrified again,” she said in court. “Caring for a toddler and two single twins, while exhausted and deeply anxious about an unwanted pregnancy, worries me every day that pregnancy suddenly makes me unable to take care of my children and manage it all in the middle of a pandemic. “
Monetary interests also came to support the bans. In just one example, one of Donald Trump’s personal attorneys, Jay Sekulow, boasted of his support from faith-based nonprofit legal centers for the Texas abortion ban.
“The [American Center for Law and Justice] won a huge lifetime victory in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas, “tweeted Sekulow.
The comings and goings forced the women, at least some with means, to travel at an exceptionally dangerous time, to board planes or to leave the State and to violate the orders of stay at the house .
“We had someone who came from Texas by plane,” said Renee Chelian, founder of the Northland Family Planning Clinics in Detroit, Michigan. “She had family here, but she got on a plane and flew. None of us fly. “
When workers from Whole Woman Health called to report the patients, some were in the car on their way to neighboring Oklahoma and New Mexico. The women asked: are you sure we should turn around? Is it 5am too early to enter?
With the introduction of restrictions, interest in self-directed abortions has increased. Plan C, a website that provides information on self-directed abortions, saw daily visits increase by 20% in April and 11% in March, roughly when states have enacted prohibitions.
“There is no reason in the world that a large number of abortions cannot be performed by telemedicine,” said Ragsdale. “Talk to your doctor or videoconference and have the drugs delivered to your home. the FDA regulations don’t allow it – it’s time they did. “
Even in states favorable to abortion, clinic directors said protesters had become more antagonistic during the pandemic, flouting guidelines on social distancing.
“These people stand in front of abortion clinics, harass women, refuse to wear masks,” said Chelian.
Some protesters from the Chelian Clinic, who are regular regulars week after week, joined pro-gun and anti-social rallies in the capital of Michigan, Lansing. “At the end of March, they claimed as Christians that they will not have the virus,” she said.