As the world comes to a screeching halt amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, pro-life lobbyists in states such as Texas, Alabama, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Missouri have taken this as an opportunity to temporarily ban abortions, claiming them to be unnecessary elective surgeries. Abortion rights groups, such as Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the Center for Reproductive Rights, have filed lawsuits against these states to overturn the decision. Courts have temporarily halted the bans from taking place, however, a few days ago a federal appeals court ruled that Texas may continue with the abortion bans. This decision forebodes bad news for similar court cases. 

Abortions are Essential

Although this point is largely and frequently contested, research has shown that banning safe abortions doesn’t prevent them, rather it leads women to engage in unsafe abortion methods, which can lead to complications and death (WHO). Non-essential elective surgeries are those that can be planned in advance and won’t affect the health outcome of the patient if the procedure is postponed, such as dental procedures. Abortions do not adhere to these criteria since they are not planned in advance and are time-sensitive. 

Many women from the states that have instituted temporary bans on abortions reported having to drive for hours to a neighboring state to access safe and legal abortion care. This is not only harmful and dangerous to the women but also makes the “shelter-in-place” orders harder to follow. Women should not have to decide between traveling during a crisis and having a baby during a crisis. The government is constantly being criticized for their cavalier response to the pandemic, and the effort being put into restricting women’s liberties at this time is truly astonishing and disappointing.

What are some things lawmakers can do instead of pushing to ban abortion?

  1. Provide basic income to those who have lost jobs or can’t work during this time
  2. Freeze rent and mortgage payments to prevent homelessness
  3. Allocate money for necessary PPE for healthcare workers
  4. Practice social distancing
  5. Write a book
  6. Pick up a hobby
  7. Sit quietly and do nothing

This situation exposes the priorities of lawmakers. Even though 10 million people have lost their jobs in the past two weeks, over 4,000 people died from the coronavirus, and the economy has tanked, all they can think about is how to further control women’s bodies. The bottom line is that a global pandemic should not be taken advantage of to push political agendas that have life-threatening consequences for many women and the message that is being sent loud and clear is that women’s rights are non-essential.