Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson is an abortion doula and Ph.D. student in religious studies at the University of Alberta. She is the author of the Humanist Ceremonies Handbook (Humanist Press, 2018) and the upcoming The Companion: An Abortion Doula Handbook. You can visit her on her website www.electriceelpond.com. Here she talks about abortion providers navigating the crisis.
Normally, I use this space to answer questions sent to me by friends, followers of the AAAN page, etc. But since we’re all on lockdown it occurs to me that this might be a good time to talk about how abortion care providers are navigating this crisis. After all, people aren’t going to stop getting pregnant and abortion care needs to happen in a timely manner. So, what are health care professionals doing to address this need during this time? And is there more we can do in Canada?
There’s really no one answer as to how clinics are handling the Covid-19 pandemic. The clinic I used to work at back in the states has decided to simply have patients wait in their companion’s car in their private lot until their appointment time. It’s perhaps not ideal or the most comfortable but it helps patients avoid possible contagion from other patients. Other clinics are unfortunately having to ban support people from the clinic to make social distancing possible. That would be people like a boyfriend or girlfriend or even doulas like myself. And some clinics are asking people to isolate for 14 days before having an abortion, with exceptions only for those approaching a clinic’s gestational cut off.
Like most of our norms right now, this emergency is exposing the flaws in how we live and how we care for each other. In the case of abortion, it shows us just how important that care is to people, how necessary and how urgent. Doctors can’t just stop providing abortion care any more than they can stop providing chemotherapy or setting broken bones. Abortion is necessary and it is time sensitive.
One thing that becomes immediately obvious to me is that Canada needs to catch up to the rest of the world in how it approaches medical abortion, those abortions obtained by taking RU-486, also known in Canada as Mifegymiso. It took Canada many decades to even approve the use of medical abortion despite its safe use in both Europe and the United States for more than 20 years. And once it became available in 2017, many doctors and clinics still refused to prescribe it to patients to use at home despite it being incredibly safe to do, not to mention far more dignified and convenient for the patient. And what of rural patients? It can be literally impossible in many, many places to even find a doctor who will talk to you about your options, let alone prescribe you the pills. In that case, you are back to square one, trying to make an appointment at a clinic hundreds, sometimes thousands of kilometers away just to get a prescription to take a pill in their presence. Now imagine trying to do that during a pandemic in which transportation and childcare options are even more limited than usual.
This is why I am such a vocal advocate for getting as many doctors on board with prescribing RU-486. If doctors would prescribe the pills to patients to use at home, abortion care would be less stressful and safer in general, not to mention during times of crisis such as this. In fact, during a public health crisis, prescribing RU-486 would be the most responsible thing a doctor could do regarding the reproductive health of their patients.
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
Image Credit: Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson.