MSNBC Live recently highlighted the impact of Texas’ erroneous order to ban abortions deemed not “medically necessary” during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the right-wing misinformation behind the decision.
Last week, Texas announced that abortion care would be included in a statewide ban on unnecessary medical procedures intended to preserve needed hospital beds and personal protective equipment (PPE). The order contains exceptions necessary “to preserve the life or health of the” person seeking an abortion. However, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton claimed, “The truth is abortion – for the most part – is an elective procedure that can be done later.” Abortion providers in Texas sued to maintain access to this essential health care procedure. The state already has restrictive anti-abortion laws in place, including a 24-hour waiting period and a ban on abortion after 20 weeks.
Texas isn’t the only state exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to advance an anti-abortion agenda. Oklahoma, Iowa, Ohio, Louisiana, and Mississippi have all deemed most abortions a “nonessential” procedure during this time -- though not all clinics in these states have stopped performing abortions thus far. Kentucky’s attorney general has called for the governor of his state to ban the procedure as well.
During a March 28 segment of MSNBC Live, anchor Alicia Menendez talked to Amy Hagstrom Miller, the founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, and Dyana Limon-Mercado, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes. Limon-Mercado spoke about how “time-sensitive” abortion is and about the disparate impacts of the Texas order, saying:
DYANA LIMON-MERCADO: We know low-income people, hourly-salaried people, women of color are already disproportionately impacted by, you know, the daily challenges in life and by barriers to abortion access. And then in this moment, when many of them are one, either losing their jobs through the restaurant industry, the hotel industry, and many other industries, or they're being told that they're essential employees and having to move forward our economy by being childcare workers or grocery store workers, but they can't get the essential health care that they need. And it is a time-sensitive procedure. Every day of delay is another barrier that these people face in being able to access their constitutionally protected right.
Miller spoke about the impact of this bill and the misinformation behind it:
ALICIA MENENDEZ (ANCHOR): If people in Texas cannot go to clinics, cannot access this care, where do they go instead?
AMY HAGSTROM MILLER: So, unfortunately, there's sort of a misunderstanding from our governor really about what abortion involves. So, abortion isn't surgery. Abortion is a procedure. And medication abortion, which is well over half of the abortions that I provide in the state of Texas is just a pill, and it doesn't use the personal protective equipment that the governor is talking about. And so I think that there are many medication abortions specifically that could really be provided safely without impacted any use of the PPE that we’re all worried about making sure is accessible to essential workers in the hospital setting.
Unfortunately, you know, Texas is a really big state. And so if we cut down abortion access all throughout the state, people are going to have to travel really far. We have -- there's a clinic in Arkansas, there's a clinic in New Mexico, there's other states surrounding us -- Louisiana, Mississippi -- that are also impacted. And in the pandemic, even considering travel is incredibly stressful for people. Not only traveling with an unplanned pregnancy and potentially uncertainty in your income and your job, but also there's travel restrictions and a lot of people are really scared to even leave their home. And so, it just is compounding what is already a stressful and challenging time for many people and unnecessarily so. These restrictions [are] not advancing health and safety. In fact, it's rolling it back.
MSNBC’s segment provided a vital opportunity for abortion rights advocates to explain how misinformation will hurt communities already facing drastic impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. As right-wing media will surely continue promoting anti-abortion misinformation during the coronavirus crisis, segments like this serve as an essential way to combat those lies.