Every time I think I'm out of outrage — emotionally exhausted from how the COVID-19 crisis has exposed the fragility of all our society's systems and unable to think about it for another second — something forces me to dig deeper and find another well of it stored within me.
It's hard enough to watch people sick and suffering, families being split apart, healthcare workers risking their lives and well-being to provide care, and people losing their jobs left and right. It's even harder knowing that so much of this could have been prevented or lessened but for the poor decision-making and horrifying gaslighting that came from the White House in the weeks and months leading up to COVID-19's appearance in the U.S.
But to see some politicians use this pandemic as an excuse to ban abortion has been a low I wasn't prepared for while I shopped for extra canned goods and toilet paper.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents a governing crisis for legislators at all levels. There is a role for everyone to play, from your city council members all the way up to your U.S. Senators. There are real needs these legislators should be focusing on to protect us all. But, instead, scores of politicians are using this moment to declare abortion care as "nonessential" and are forcing clinics to close.
Amid the necessary stay-at-home orders and guidelines for what kinds of services or procedures are considered essential and which ones must be delayed, Governors in Texas, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio, and Oklahoma have acted to declare that abortion care is considered "nonessential."
They claim that these procedures must be stopped so medical personnel can preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for fighting COVID-19. But abortion isn't a procedure that can be easily delayed.
The longer you wait, the more expensive it is and, eventually, you run out of time altogether — sometimes because of existing restrictions on abortion later in pregnancy. Restrictions that these very same politicians support or maybe even put into place.
Abortion is connected to innumerable other issues that our society grapples with: employment, paid family leave, gender-based violence, generational poverty, adequate and quality childcare, job security, immigration, transportation, health insurance... HEALTH INSURANCE.
Every structure and component of our daily lives can and does impact a person's decisions around family-building and their ability to access healthcare when they need it. This doesn't just stop because of a pandemic.
Every single one of these issues is at risk right now, and leaving women with nowhere to go if they're facing an unintended pregnancy that they wish to end, is a new low.
To anyone who has been paying attention, how quickly our systems have buckled or how fragile our economic and health security actually is (and always has been) should come as no great surprise.
People with incredible privilege have been able to look the other way for years. But as their stocks tumble and they are forced to consider their health and that of their family members, perhaps they, too, will see that significant structural changes must be enacted to respond to the world we are living in.
The completely arbitrary nature of so many of our laws is being laid bare. The soul-crushing burdens of trying to manage everything — child care, working full time, and running a home and a family during a once-in-a-generation crisis — without a broad, systematic set of structures to support that process is being shown to be utterly impossible. It's simple logic.
Though opponents of reproductive rights have never been much for science, it's appalling how even now that is so blatantly true. Their argument for cutting off abortion access to preserve PPE for other health care services is easily countered when you note that continuing a pregnancy requires multiple prenatal visits and ultimately a hospital stay for actual delivery. All of which require a much higher amount of PPE being utilized over a significant period of time.
Meanwhile, we could transform the landscape of abortion access overnight if we simply expanded the availability of medication abortion, allowing women to get the safe and effective abortion pill without even having to go to a clinic. The U.K just took action to make this a reality. There's no reason, beyond petty politics, that the U.S. couldn't do the same. But, so far, the FDA isn't budging.
Of course, if we attempt to counter these increased abortion restrictions with facts, we'd be presuming that these opponents of abortion are arguing in good faith when they are absolutely not.
This isn't about health and safety during a global pandemic, and it's not about looking out for peoples' best interests. There's no reasonable argument to be made for forcing someone to continue a pregnancy against their will, especially while our entire world is in an upheaval.
The fact that these proponents of abortion restrictions are willing to twist a global pandemic to suit their own needs, and in antithesis to the simple facts of health and safety, is appalling. It is only adding more stress and heartache to already-challenging circumstances. Women in Texas and Oklahoma don't deserve that; no one does.
Pushing for abortion restrictions at a time like this isn't about healthcare, PPE, or even safety. It is a purposeful and manipulative political agenda that will make things even harder at a time when we can all agree things are hard enough.
WRITTEN BYKelly Baden