Recommendations for Ensuring Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic
Many people in Louisiana who need abortions have lost their ability to work following the Governor’s order people to stay home except to get healthcare, food, supplies, or go to an essential job. School closures have forced parents to stay home with their kids rather than continuing to work.
Medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion raised enormous barriers before the pandemic, and those barriers have the potential to become increasingly insurmountable now. Below are reasonable actions that Louisiana could take to ensure people can continue getting reproductive healthcare during this crisis.
Expand access to medication abortion. Medication abortion is safe. Louisiana needs to lift the medically unnecessary regulations that prohibit doctors from prescribing the pills for dispensing at a pharmacy and allow all licensed OBGYNs, nurse practitioners and other advanced practice clinicians to prescribe abortion medication rather than limiting its availability to just three clinics.
Allow telemedicine for state-mandated consultation appointments. The state has issued a directive that telehealth should be used when medically appropriate. However, Louisiana law currently prohibits the use of telemedicine for abortion. Telemedicine is always a useful tool for people with disabilities or other conditions that prohibit them from in-person clinic visits, but it proves to be vital during a public health crisis. Abortion providers should be allowed to conduct the state-mandated first visit counseling appointment with their patients via teleconference.
Suspend the 30-day limitation between counseling appointments and abortion appointments. Louisiana’s current law requires that a patient must access their abortion within thirty days of undergoing mandatory counseling. Louisiana must suspend this requirement if patients are being asked to delay their procedures for 30-days in response to the LDH directive.
Eliminate the ban on public and private health coverage for abortion care. Louisiana’s current restrictions on abortion coverage in public and private plans has direct financial implications for patients. To cover the out-of-pocket cost for the procedure—plus the costs for things like travel, lodging, child care and time off from work—many low-income patients already put off paying utility bills or rent, or buying food for themselves and their children. Now, many people are being forced out of work and have limited to no income, making it impossible to come up with the money they need to get an abortion.