How Planned Parenthood is handling the coronavirus | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

How Planned Parenthood is handling the coronavirus

click to enlarge How Planned Parenthood is handling the coronavirus
CP Photo: Lisa Cunningham
The novel coronavirus has impacted every facet of our lives. An institution like Planned Parenthood is a vulnerable institution in the best of times, often having to fight off restrictive legislation and losses in funding. But now some lawmakers are using the pandemic as a reason to further restrict access to services, including abortion. Social distancing orders also make it harder to access services in states where clinics are few and far between.

In nearby Ohio, attorney general Dave Yost ordered clinics to halt "non-essential" abortions, though Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio has said they will continue providing abortions, calling them "an essential, time-sensitive medical procedure." In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order banning all "medically unnecessary procedures," specifically including abortion, unless it is to save the life of the mother.

Such restrictions seem unlikely in Pennsylvania under the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf, himself a former Planned Parenthood clinic escort, who has repeatedly vetoed bills that attempt to further restrict abortion access in the Commonwealth. Still, it's a weird time for a medical facility that isn't directly treating coronavirus patients.

Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania (PPWP) is currently not seeing any patients that have COVID-19 symptoms, have limited the number of patients allowed in the building, and are currently not seeing walk-in patients. The facility has moved some of its non-urgent services offsite, with phone consultations, and will soon be offering telehealth appointments, according to Sara Dixon, public relations manager for PPWP. The clinic continues to provide abortions.

"We will continue to provide this critical care during this pandemic crisis because we know abortion cannot wait," says Dixon. "We are thankful that Pennsylvania's leadership recognizes the immediacy of this crucial care that does not wait for a pandemic to subside."

In a time when a record number of people are out of work and patients with COVID-19 are avoiding the hospital for fear of bills they can't afford, the cost of an abortion or other reproductive services can certainly be prohibitive. But Dixon assures that PPWP aims to make its services available even to those struggling financially.

"Offering services that are affordable continues to be a priority, especially during this time when we know that so many people have lost jobs and health insurance, and are struggling with financial uncertainty," says Dixon, noting that their family planning services are offered on a sliding scale.

One inadvertent effect of coronavirus restrictions is a lack of protesters gathering outside the facility. The pro-life movement 40 Days for Life runs annually from the beginning to the end of Lent, which is typically the time of the year when protesters gather outside the clinic in their largest numbers. But stay-at-home orders prevent them from gathering in large groups, making the occasionally crowded sidewalk more accessible.

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