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Some people are worried about how the coronavirus fallout could hurt abortion clinics



Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

While the United States and the world take prudential steps to confront and combat the global spread of the new coronavirus — formally known as COVID-19 — some people have actually raised concerns that the response efforts might negatively impact women's ability to abort their unborn children.

For example, a story published Tuesday at HuffPost describes the situation of Texas abortionist Joe Nelson, who decided to self-quarantine for two weeks after he exhibited respiratory symptoms and was unable to get the coronavirus test. Nelson — who conducts abortions at three different clinics in the state — said he was worried that his self-isolation might have a "huge impact" on people seeking abortions in the Lone Star State.

"There are not that many doctors who provide abortion care in Texas," Nelson told the outlet. "A lot of the doctors that do come in from out of state. In a situation where doctors are less likely to want to travel, if there's no one to cover me, patients will have to wait."

That kind of concern isn't limited to Texas, however.

An article published last week by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute also points to concerns about the availability of people and supplies to perform abortions amid the ongoing public health crisis, saying that "what may be lost in the chaos" is "the specific impact on sexual and reproductive health and rights, both for people in the United States and around the world."

One outcome, the authors say, is that diverting medical personnel to deal with the crisis "may create a shortage of clinicians who can provide sexual and reproductive health services and increase wait times for patients in need." They add that for places without many providers in the first place "this will put an extreme strain on capacity to serve patients, especially for non-emergency care."

National Abortion Federation President Katherine Hancock Ragsdale echoed similar abortion access anxieties, telling HuffPost, "One or two people unable to show up can make the difference between a clinic being able to function or not."

In addition of a shortage of personnel to perform the procedure, Ragsdale also voiced concerns about the possibility of finite medical supplies being taken away from abortion procedures in a shortage so they can instead be used for other procedures considered more important.

"We worry that all health care resources are being channeled to non-elective procedures, and abortion tends to be classified as an elective procedure," Ragsdale said. "We understand that abortion isn't a stroke or a heart attack, and it can be scheduled out. But it can't be scheduled out indefinitely."

According to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the United States had over 6,500 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and had seen 115 deaths as a result of the outbreak as of Wednesday morning. Globally, the same numbers show over 200,000 confirmed cases of the virus and over 8,200 deaths.

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