Abortion is essential health care

Some states are banning abortion, instead Evers should push for telemed access during the pandemic

Women's rights -- face with pink glitter in symbol for women
A women's day march in Sao Paulo, Brazil protesting the government on March 8, 2017 on issues of legalization of abortion and gender equality. Brazil is the fifth most violent country against women in the world. (Photo by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images)

This week, the governors of Texas and Ohio banned abortion as “non-essential” health care. 

As midwives, doctors, doulas and health care activists, we at Pregnancy Options Wisconsin can affirm that abortion health care is just as essential as health care for pregnancy and birth. During the shutdown of non-essential services in Wisconsin, pregnant people must be able to access all their legal and necessary pregnancy options. 

A rational and evidence-based response to COVID-19 in Wisconsin would be to get rid of telemedicine abortion bans, 24-hour waiting periods and physician-only restrictions. This would immediately reduce pressures on clinics that provide essential services and reduce opportunities for illness transmission.

People who need abortion in Wisconsin already face significant political obstacles to accessing the health care they need. Delays due to multiple-visit and same-physician rules already cause increased mental and financial stress.

Moreover, because most hospitals no longer provide abortion, people who seek care due to maternal health concerns or a tragic pregnancy diagnosis rely exclusively on clinics that specialize in abortion care. 

Without the important work of the few remaining health centers that provide abortion in Wisconsin, people who are forced to continue pregnancies against their best decision-making for their own and their families’ lives would be traumatized. It would result in increased delays, expenses, hardships, exposures, as they find their way across state lines to Minnesota or Illinois.  

We support the joint statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 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 which states: 

Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care. 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 consequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.

We are pleased that Gov. Tony Evers safeguarded abortion services today, within the broadly defined Healthcare and Public Health Operations of his Safer At Home Order.

However, state and federal abortion mandates continue to pose unnecessary health risks and hardships for Wisconsinites.

This is a moment for national leadership. We call on Gov. Evers to lead the country in proclaiming abortion services to be essential health care. Then, we might be able to begin creating a dignified, safe, equitable reproductive health care system. Then, we might be able to dream of a rational and evidence-based response of the kind the UK proposed last week – telemed abortion at home, in order to decrease the possibility of viral spread and to save lives.

Ingrid Andersson
Ingrid is a Wisconsin advanced practice nurse with twenty years of experience as a licensed home birth midwife, serving pregnant people from preconception through six weeks after birth. She serves on the Dane County Fetal & Infant Mortality team, on the board of Women's Medical Fund, and is a co-founder of Mothers' Milk Alliance, Inc. and Pregnancy Options Wisconsin: Education, Resources & Support (POWERS). She lives in Madison with her son and husband, two dogs and flock of hens.
Johanna Hatch
Johanna Hatch is a registered nurse with experience in sexual and reproductive health, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and student nurse midwife. She is an activist with Pregnancy Options Wisconsin: Education, Resources, and Support. She lives in Verona with her family.