The executive director at Choice in Health Clinic in Toronto called Abortion an “essential service” amid the Chinavirus.
The abortion providers at Choice in Health Clinic in Toronto have made a heartbreaking decision: to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19, they will no longer allow people seeking abortions to bring in a support person.
It’s not a decision made lightly, says Clare Hacksel, the clinic’s executive director.
But it was one the clinic felt necessary, Hacksel says, in order to ensure it can still provide care for people seeking abortions who cannot always afford to wait out a 14-day period of isolation.
“We do not see abortion services as elective,” she says. “They are an essential service, and our goal is to maintain operations while maintaining staff and client safety as much as possible.”
To try to make up for the lack of in-person support, Hacksel says the clinic has eased restrictions on using phones in the clinic (so long as they’re cleaned on site before being brought in). The clinic has also moved all post-abortion counselling services to the phones.
At Athena Health Centre in St. John’s, N.L., anyone seeking an abortion who has travelled outside of the province is being asked to wait until 14 days after their return to access the procedure.
However, a spokesperson said exceptions will “absolutely” be made for people who are near the end of the gestational cutoff. Similar to the Choice in Health Clinic in Toronto, Athena Health Centre is also limiting the waiting room to patients only.
These are tough decisions, acknowledged the Very Reverend Katherine Ragsdale, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation in the United States, but they are decisions being made across North America as providers figure out the safest way to maintain a person’s right to choose during a pandemic.
“People have a tendency to think that abortion is more elective than it is,” Ragsdale says. “Yes, it’s not bleeding out on the floor, you’re not having a stroke, you’re not having a heart attack. You can schedule your treatment, but it’s not elective in that it can’t be put off indefinitely without serious health and life consequences.”
The federation is keeping its hotline open to help make sure that even if the clinic closest to a person has to close, they know where to go for clinics that are still open.
Hacksel is appreciative of the other voices reiterating that even in times of crisis, abortion access is essential. As a spokesperson for Women’s College Hospital in Toronto said: “We are continuing to offer these services as we normally do.”
That matters a lot, Ragsdale says.
“Women’s health care matters, their access and rights to make decisions about their life matter, and they shouldn’t feel they don’t have the right to get the care they need, including abortion, because of COVID-19.”
Abortions are never essential services, especially not during a crisis like this. Canada needs all hands on deck to deal with the Chinavirus. I’m not an expert on what is needed medically for abortions but I am certain that those resources could be used to deal with the Chinavirus.
Imagine having a pandemic facing the world and all you can think about is continuing killing babies.
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