Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

The essential work of pregnancy centers

Abortion | COVID-19 stretches but doesn’t break pro-life clinics
by Leah Hickman
Posted 4/13/20, 05:09 pm

With most abortions in Texas on hold because of the coronavirus outbreak, more patients are turning to pro-life pregnancy centers like the Hope Women’s Resource Clinic in Beaumont.

“Because all of the abortion clinics were closed, people were desperate,” said Jeanette Harvey, the Hope Clinic’s executive director. “The number of abortion calls has increased, I would say double, easily, if not more than double.”

The influx of clients reflects what other pro-life pregnancy help organizations have noticed. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, Heartbeat International has seen a rise in calls to its Option Line. The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) polled 473 affiliate pregnancy centers in a COVID-19 webinar last week. Forty-two percent of them reported an increase in patients interested in abortion.

States such as Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas have ordered abortion centers to close as nonessential businesses during the pandemic, spurring court battles with pro-abortion groups. But most state and local governments consider pro-life pregnancy centers essential. Almost half of the 66 pregnancy centers that work with the pro-life group Save the Storks have had to close their doors during the outbreak, but only one was because of a government mandate, according to Shara Pierce, the director of counseling for the organization. NIFLA said only four or five of its centers closed because authorities classified them as “nonessential.”

“We’re allowed to stay open because all of our services are free and are deemed essential because we serve a population that is low-income or does not have insurance,” Harvey said about her center in Beaumont.

But the coronavirus has still put a strain on pregnancy center operations. About half of the NIFLA centers polled are operating with modified staffing and hours. Staff shortages have caused most of the closures among centers that work with Save the Storks.

“When this first hit, of course, we had several staff people that either had high-risk people at home or were themselves high-risk,” Harvey said of the Hope Clinic. “So that cut our staff almost in half.”

The clinic has had to limit the number of patients each day to guard against spreading the virus. “We used to be booked two weeks out,” Harvey said. “Now we’re booked about 3½ weeks out.” The clinic also has canceled all parenting classes. In the past, new mothers could attend these classes to earn points they could later redeem for childcare necessities. Now, the Hope Clinic offers those things for free, even to non-clients.

In all the changes, though, Harvey said at least one thing has stayed the same: “We’re not really seeing a change in the reason why women are seeking an abortion.” Her clinic has only seen one patient who was concerned specifically about COVID-19, and some have a sense of urgency because they fear that abortion won’t be available to them. But most face the usual pressures: financial or material concerns, fears about the future, or pressure from a partner.

“The crisis is not the pregnancy,” Harvey said. “The crisis is something else in their life that makes them think they shouldn’t be pregnant now. Our goal is to figure out what the real crisis is and help them to resolve that.”

Associated Press/Photo by Joshua A. Bickel/The Columbus Dispatch Associated Press/Photo by Joshua A. Bickel/The Columbus Dispatch Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (right) and state Director of Health Amy Acton following a news conference at the Ohio Statehouse

Across the nation

Ohio: The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on April 6 upheld a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from limiting abortions during the coronavirus pandemic. The state sought to put a hold on nonessential abortions to save personal protective equipment for medical personnel fighting COVID-19, but a federal judge blocked the move when abortion groups sued. The court’s denial of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s appeal means that abortions will be able to continue in the state.

Texas: The 5th Circuit on Tuesday gave the state permission to stop most abortions while the coronavirus rages on. In the majority opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan said the government could “reasonably restrict” constitutional rights to protect public safety, and “the right to abortion is no exception.” Later in the week, the appeals court ruled women could get an abortion if they would pass 22 weeks of gestation by the time the executive order barring abortions expires on April 22.

Alaska: The state included surgical abortion on a list of procedures that providers could postpone due to the coronavirus. This list clarifies a March order that mandated hospitals and other medical facilities cancel or postpone elective procedures. According to the state’s health commissioner, the language in the list leaves room for “professional judgment” in determining the length of the postponement.

Oklahoma: A federal judge on April 6 blocked an executive order that would have paused abortions in the state during the COVID-19 outbreak. U.S. District Judge Charles Goodwin’s temporary restraining order allows the procedure to continue despite the desperate need for personal protective equipment. —L.H.

Associated Press/Photo by Eric Gay (file) Associated Press/Photo by Eric Gay (file) An elderly resident is wheeled out of a nursing home in San Antonio.

Indiscriminate healthcare

The Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is launching an investigation to make sure medical providers do not withhold lifesaving care from coronavirus patients based on their age, race, or disabilities. The office published a bulletin on March 28 following concerns from disability rights advocates that Alabama and Washington state’s guidelines for rationing care during the pandemic discriminated against patients with disabilities.

“In this time of emergency, the laudable goal of providing care quickly and efficiently must be guided by the fundamental principles of fairness, equality, and compassion that animate our civil rights laws,” the bulletin said. “This is particularly true with respect to the treatment of persons with disabilities during medical emergencies as they possess the same dignity and worth as everyone else.” —L.H.

Reserved for health professionals

A mask supplier in Australia declined to fulfill an abortion business’s order of facemasks on the grounds it was saving the personal protective equipment (PPE) for health professionals, BuzzFeed News reported. The abortion center’s chief executive, Jamal Hakim, said his business has tried to order equipment for five weeks, but suppliers have repeatedly canceled or refused to accept the orders. “Many PPE suppliers do not consider abortion to be healthcare,” he said.

Australian health departments last month classified abortion as an essential service that addresses an urgent “gynecological condition.” Despite this, the mask suppliers seem to recognize that abortion is not worth prioritizing in a health crisis. —L.H.

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Leah Hickman

Leah is a reporter for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Cleveland, Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @leahmhickman.

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    Posted: Tue, 04/14/2020 03:30 pm

    Because of the VIRUS health services stopped treatment on cancer patients, but abortions must continue?

    Our country is NUTS!