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Submission UN Special Rapporteur on Abortion Restrictions During COVID-19

The following is responding specifically to question 2(a) concerning measures introduced during the pandemic aiming at recognizing, restricting, banning and/or criminalizing access to legal abortion.

The COVID-19 pandemic posed unprecedented challenges to access to sexual and reproductive health services. As states enacted their COVID-19 response plans in the early phase of the pandemic, GJC noted an uptick in focus on abortion in the United States and around the globe – resulting in a mix of outcomes, both positive and negative. The unevenness with which abortion was dealt with underscores the importance that access to safe abortion services be protected as a matter of human right, recognized by officials as essential medical care, and not subject to restrictions.

Global Increase of Restrictions on Abortion Access

A number of US states moved to limit abortion by classifying abortions that are not a medical emergency as non-essential medical services that must be canceled or deferred, and ordering providers to stop their performance. As a result, legal battles played out across these states. In Texas, the conflict first began after the government enacted an executive order banning abortions as “a nonessential medical procedure that must be suspended to conserve scarce medical equipment for doctors treating coronavirus patients.” The fight went back and forth between different courts, causing chaos, confusion and disruption for providers and patients. There were numerous stories of pregnant women trying to access clinics for their appointments only to find them closed, waiting in clinic parking lots for hours while being harassed by protestors, and traveling for hours across state lines to reach the nearest available clinic. A similar pattern emerged in other states across the US.

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