Mutual Aid for Abortion Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic
We are at an unprecedented moment in history, where nearly every state in the Union is under a stay-at-home order, and everyone must contend with threats to our health and changes to our way of life. Some states are responding by making it even harder to get an abortion, by deeming abortion a “non-essential” healthcare service, and trying to close clinics. In other states, clinics are understaffed and offering fewer appointments. Millions of people have lost their jobs, making it harder than ever to afford the abortion care they need. But we know that the ability to get an abortion when you need one is as important as ever.
As young people, we need to help each other and make sure everyone who needs an abortion has access.
Here's how you can help.
1) Get informed: where has access to abortion care changed? Right now, only in four states.
As states adjust to the pandemic conditions, eleven have made some attempt to further limit access to abortion, but only three currently have limited access in the state.
In Alaska and Arkansas, only medication abortions are permitted at this time. Abortion clinics are open to offer this service.
In West Virginia, extreme restrictions have been put into place but some abortions are still being offered. In Texas, abortion clinics took the state to court over an order to close, and a series of decisions followed. However, the order to close clinics has since expired and they are open for business (with the same set of restrictions that existed before the pandemic began).
In the 46 other states, abortion policies remain the same as they were before the COVID-19 response began.
2) Know where your nearest abortion clinic is and if they have adjusted their services.
Do you know where the nearest abortion clinic is? You can find out at the National Abortion Federation's Provider Locator. Call or check the clinic's website to find out if their procedures have changed.
3) Read up on telemedicine.
Telemedicine for abortion care is when a provider is able to counsel a patient on their options and prescribe medication abortion via video chat or phone. In some cases, the "call" or remote discussion takes place in a clinic setting, with the provider at another location. In other cases, a patient is able to consult with the provider from home. Telemedicine is safe for the patient, and under COVID-19 conditions, its appeal is increasing. A number of states do not permit telemedicine (laws that have been enacted not to protect patients, but because opponents to abortion want to limit access). However, as noted above, under current conditions some state policies have changed. Ask about the option of telemedicine at your local clinic.
4) Contribute to an abortion fund.
Abortion funds around the country not only provide people who need abortions with financial assistance, but help abortion clinics operate and provide support to clinicians and clinic staff. You can help a friend in need by referring them to a fund, and you can help folks in your community with your donation.
5) Join a Practical Support Network
A practical support network is a group of volunteers in an area who help people access safe, quality abortion services without delay, by providing direct assistance such as travel to the clinic, overnight housing, child care, translation, etc. These are sometimes, but not always, associated with an abortion fund. See below for links to some, or google "practical abortion support" to find the one nearest you.
6) Learn about self-managed abortion.
Self-managed abortion (SMA) is abortion care obtained outside the traditional medical system. Some people use herbal remedies for SMA, while others use medication. The abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol have been used safely by millions.
For political reasons, opponents of legal abortion make it difficult for health care providers to prescribe and for people to obtain the medications. If not for the politics of the abortion issue, based on their safety record these pills could be available over the counter.
7) Find an abortion doula, or become one.
An abortion doula is someone who helps someone navigate their abortion experience. Doulas offer support and information before, during, and after the abortion, and help the patient find a provider who can answer medical questions if those arise. Abortion doula services are typically free. Becoming a doula requires training. There are doula networks in many areas; search online to find an abortion doula network in your area.
8) Understand the special challenges for minors who need abortion care.
The majority of states – thirty-six as of April 2020– currently enforce laws that require a young person to notify or obtain consent from one or both parents before they can receive abortion care. If they can't, then they must go to court, where a judge makes the decision for them. Research has shown that these laws, which disproportionately impact young women of color and immigrant youth, often delay or prevent young people’s access, endangering their health and safety. A majority of Americans support young people’s self-autonomy and right to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health without their parent’s involvement. When someone needs an abortion in a state with a parental involvement law, they have options, and there are folks who can help. Jane's Due Process is an organization which works to ensure minors have lawyers and other support to get the abortion care they need. Lawyers and others can volunteer their services.