Joint statement on essential abortion care during COVID-19

The National Abortion Federation (NAF) Canada and Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights join their voices to make sure that abortion care remains available in Canada during this time of crisis. We call on governments and health sectors to continue to ensure that abortion facilities remain open. We urge all hospitals to provide abortion care.

NAF Canada promotes, enhances, and ensures access to quality abortion care. Action Canada is a progressive, pro-choice charitable organization committed to advancing and upholding sexual and reproductive health and rights in Canada and globally.

As federal, provincial, and municipal governments put measures in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, hospitals and clinics are preparing for an increased strain on all healthcare providers, staff, resources, and systems. Non-essential and elective procedures and surgeries will likely be postponed indefinitely, while other less urgent health services will be triaged and delayed.

During this public health crisis, pregnancy care – including abortion care— remains an essential health service. The needs for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care do not go away in a crisis. Abortion is a time-sensitive, medically necessary intervention and cannot be deferred without profound consequences for pregnant people, their families, and the health system. One in three people who are able to become pregnant will have an abortion in Canada during their lifetime. Our pandemic response must include sexual and reproductive health needs – as many cannot wait until “after” COVID-19. 

Throughout this pandemic, people will need time-sensitive care and access to treatment. Some abortion providers are already implementing telemedicine care for intake and follow-up to limit potential exposure for patients and healthcare workers. Other hospital-based providers have ensured that, while elective surgeries are cancelled, abortion care continues to be provided in a time-sensitive manner. We commend those who have quickly sprung into action to ensure that access to care is not compromised.

NAF Canada and Action Canada share a vision of a world where all people can achieve the highest possible standards of sexual and reproductive health care. This must hold true  in times of crisis, when upholding and defending our rights to sexual health, including abortion care, become more important than ever.

In crisis contexts, abortion, contraceptive, and youth sexual health will often be de-prioritized – leading to devastating outcomes for individuals and communities, including higher rates of maternal morbidity, gender-based violence, unintended pregnancy, and long-term impacts on mental and physical health.

As our country moves deeper into this crisis, we must especially protect the human rights of the most marginalized members of society. People who experience racism, ableism, ageism, classism, transphobia, and homophobia are more affected by disruptions to services, including abortion care. Healthcare systems across the country must increase health equity and ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable are considered first, not last.

NAF Canada, Action Canada’s Access Line team, and our network of partners who offer frontline sexual and reproductive healthcare services are working tirelessly to make sure we have the latest and clearest information to share with those who need it. We are also working hard to ensure access to abortion care remains available amidst the current unusual circumstances.

Please call the Access Line for support and information: 1-888-642-2725 or contact NAF Canada at canada@prochoice.org.

Posted on 2020-03-20
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