Massachusetts Allows Abortion Procedures to Continue Despite COVID-19 Pandemic

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While the performance of nonessential medical procedures has been temporarily suspended in Massachusetts due to COVID-19, this standard does not appear to apply to abortion. Whether an abortion has been pre-scheduled or not, patients can continue to follow through with an abortion appointment unabated.

The National Abortion Federation (NAF) released a statement that says:

“As states and municipalities enact measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, more non-essential businesses will be instructed—or required—to close. At the same time, hospitals are preparing for a surge in COVID-19 cases and increased strain on their staff, resources, and systems, and will likely begin indefinitely postponing non-essential or elective procedures. During this public health crisis, pregnancy care, including abortion care, remains an essential health service.”

Governor Charles D. Baker echoed the points made by NAF, declaring abortion to be an essential service despite the potential risk it poses for spreading the virus. This statement by Gov. Baker’s was delivered in conjunction with an emergency declaration regarding nonessential procedures that reads:

“…[A]ll hospitals…and all ambulatory surgical centers… shall implement procedures… regarding the scheduling, cancelation [sic], and performance of non-essential elective invasive procedures….”

But the order then goes on to exclude abortion from the list of nonessential, elective procedures, stating, ”DPH defines nonessential, elective invasive procedures as procedures that are scheduled in advance because the procedure does not involve a medical emergency; provided, however, that terminating a pregnancy is not considered a nonessential, elective invasive procedure for the purpose of this guidance.  However, the ultimate decision is based on clinical judgment by the caring physician.”

In Massachusetts, abortion is permitted beyond the point of viability. However, lawmakers have proposed the “Roe Act,” something that “would ensure abortion would be legal after 24 weeks for ‘all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the person’s age-relevant to the well-being of the patient.’” This would enshrine abortion as a right within the state constitution and allow it for any reason.

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