Impact of Coronavirus on Abortion

08 April 2020

– Dr. Rachel Carling

I have heard a number of misrepresentations regarding the impact of coronavirus on abortions across the world – and here at home – over the past couple of weeks so I’ve decided to consolidate the most up-to-date information for you.

Please note: this information is likely to date quickly as pro-life advocates (like myself) and pro-abortion advocates continue to battle this out behind-the-scenes! Parliaments throughout Australian states have been suspended with parliamentarians only required to sit for coronavirus-related legislation. (For example, the federal parliament is being recalled to legislate for the Jobkeeper wage-subsidy program). With only these exceptions in place, our ability to advocate directly into parliaments has been suspended as well. What we can do is use our existing relationships with Health Ministers and Health Departments to advocate for the protection of the unborn and their vulnerable mothers. We can also contact our local members of parliament to ask them to advocate on our behalf.

Most Australian state health departments have confirmed that doctors performing abortions will be exempt from travel restrictions relating to providing surgical abortions across state borders. WA, the ACT and Queensland have confirmed that doctors are exempt from self-isolation due to their provision of an ‘essential service’. This will allow doctors specialising in late term abortions to continue to cross state lines to provide their ‘essential service’. Please note: that NSW and Victoria currently have no isolation rules in place for interstate workers so no such exemptions have been required to date.

The Australian Federal Health Department has made it clear that abortions performed surgically through ‘curettage and evacuation’ are considered to be ‘Category 1’ elective surgeries. Category 1 is defined as “needing treatment within 30 days…[having] the potential to deteriorate quickly to the point where the patient’s situation may become an emergency”.

A woman seeking an abortion for non-medical reasons at seven weeks will not be facing an emergency in 30 days if she is denied access to an abortion. She will simply be eleven weeks’ pregnant – a perfectly non-emergency medical condition.

Marie Stopes Australia proudly proclaims on their website: “We are an essential service and will continue to provide termination of pregnancy services”. While their contraception and vasectomy services have been temporarily downsized, their abortion services have continued unabated.

Telehealth for abortions is already widely available in many states in Australia, including NSW. Last year Clinic 66 set up their tele-abortion service in NSW following the passing of legislation which shifted abortion from the criminal code into healthcare. In response to the coronavirus crisis, Clinic 66 announced that they would now be bulk billing their appointments for Medicare holders ‘until further notice’. This means abortion consultations telling women how to access abortion-at-home services are now being provided free of charge. Previously this service cost several hundred dollars.

Medical abortions were further expanded last week in NSW in response to the coronavirus crisis with Family Planning NSW launching their own online and telehealth service for “reproductive and sexual healthcare”. At the same time, this service assured the public that face-to-face consultations continued to be available.

Telehealth for abortions remains inaccessible in South Australia, leading many pro-abortion campaigners to use this opportunity to campaign for legislative change.

In summary, in Australia in general and in NSW in particular, pro-abortion services have taken advantage of the coronavirus – expanding their services online and via phone and continuing most of their abortion procedures unabated. The abortion industry is alive and well in Australia.

In the US, a number of pro-life legislators have attempted to curtail the number of abortions being performed in their states by categorising abortions as non-essential (unless to protect the life or health of a woman), effectively banning access to the procedure during the pandemic. Six conservative states have followed this path: Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas. All six states are Republican-led. However, under the US system of government, federal judges can hear appeals of state legislation and the lawsuits filed in response to the passage of this legislation were swift and effective. Federal judges blocked the bans from going into effect in nearly all states – with Texas being the exception. In Texas the ban has been allowed on a temporary basis while the state responds to the health crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the UK, Marie Stopes clinics are providing the clear message that they are “open for business” with their website clearly advertising that closures in the UK “do not impact our abortion care clinics as we are providing an essential medical service. You ARE allowed to leave your home to visit our clinics… You can self-refer… you don’t need a GP referral to access our services”.

The Department of Health and Social Care in the UK have changed the rules on abortions – allowing telephone and online consultations for medical abortions, enabling women to use abortion pills at home. This change in abortion rules has been authorised for two years or until the coronavirus crisis is over.

Meanwhile, Marie Stopes International recently lamented that travel restrictions and lockdowns will have a significant impact of women’s ability to access contraception and abortions across the 37 counties in which they work.   They successfully advocated against the closure of their clinics in Nepal, with some now beginning to reopen as a result. They will not rest until abortion is considered to be an essential service across jurisdictions.

In conclusion, the worldwide abortion industry is alive and well – unlike the babies’ lives they callously and routinely destroy. Pro-abortion advocates have mobilised effectively and swiftly to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic. They are exploiting this time of global crisis to weaken restrictions on abortions.

We cannot sit back and be silent at this time. If you have not already done so, please contact your local members of parliament and share this information with your pro-life friends and family. We must remain constantly vigilant in this time of social distancing and restrictions.

Yours in the Defence of Life,