Intended for healthcare professionals


Coronavirus pandemic stirs fight over abortion rights in US

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: (Published 30 April 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m1733

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  1. Janice Hopkins Tanne, journalist
  1. New York, USA
  1. Janice{at}

Republican leaders in eight US states are trying to ban abortions in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Janice Hopkins Tanne reports

Texas has allowed medical and surgical abortions to go ahead after a long running court fight during which abortion was repeatedly forbidden and permitted, to the frustration and dismay of doctors and patients.

On 22 March, the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, signed an executive order banning non-essential medical procedures. Abortions were considered non-essential. The state attorney general, Ken Paxton, said criminal penalties and fines would be imposed on medical professionals for providing abortions and claimed that elective medical procedures used medical supplies needed by doctors and nurses dealing with covid-19.1

When the ban expired on 22 April the governor issued a new order that allowed procedures without which patients would “be at risk of serious adverse medical consequences” so long as the procedures did not limit hospital capacity or deplete supplies of protective equipment for doctors and nurses caring for patients with covid-19.

Abortion providers interpreted the new ruling to mean they could now provide both medical and surgical abortions. In a joint statement, the heads of three Planned Parenthood affiliates …

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