Abortion Access During COVID-19, State by State

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Abortion Access During COVID-19, State by State

Dennis Carter

It’s been a dizzying few weeks.

For continuing coverage of how COVID-19 is affecting reproductive health, check out our Special Report.  

Governors and state attorneys general who oppose abortion rights are using the COVID-19 pandemic to suspend abortion care, deeming it nonessential health care that can be delayed.

Even in states that at first did not specify abortion as a nonessential procedure in statewide stay-at-home orders, officials have revised their orders to explicitly ban abortion, using bad faith arguments that have been greenlighted by conservative judges. In many of the states that have banned—or tried to ban—abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers introduced or passed near-total abortion bans in 2019.

Suspending abortion services during the COVID-19 outbreak goes against advice and guidelines from medical groups.

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In a joint statement in March, medical organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, urged state officials not to classify abortion services as nonessential during the virus outbreak. And the World Health Organization (WHO) included “reproductive health services including care during pregnancy and childbirth” among health care that should be considered essential as states and countries respond to the pandemic.

For the past four weeks, Rewire.News has tracked the ways in which state officials are using the COVID-19 crisis to suspend legal abortion. Below is an updated list of states, which we will continue to amend as changes come in.

 Jump to a state:


Alabama: Contentious

On April 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit blocked part of Alabama’s COVID-19 abortion ban, Bloomberg Law reported.

The court’s ruling stops the state from “failing to allow healthcare providers to consider and base their decisions as to whether to provide an abortion without delay on certain factors,” meaning a patient who would exceed Alabama’s gestational limit for abortion during the delay would be given access to care. 

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson on April 12 issued a preliminary injunction preventing Alabama officials from suspending abortion services during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Thompson ruled that state “efforts to combat COVID-19 do not outweigh the lasting harm imposed by the denial of an individual’s right to terminate her pregnancy, by an undue burden or increase in risk on patients imposed by a delayed procedure, or by the cloud of unwarranted prosecution against providers.”

Thompson on March 30 granted a temporary restraining order against the Alabama Department of Public Health’s ban on abortion as part of the state’s COVID-19 emergency order, AL.com reported. 
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Alaska: Accessible  

Abortion care is available in Alaska, according to a spokesperson from the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

Alaska had updated its COVID-19 response policy on April 7 to include procedural abortion care among procedures that can be delayed, the Associated Press reported. But Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) “decided elective and non-urgent medical procedures could resume” after the ban lasted “less than a week,” according to the ACLU.

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Arizona: Accessible 

Arizona’s health department confirmed on April 3 that abortion services would remain available amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Holly Poynter, a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Health Services, told Rewire.News that the executive order on medical procedures during the crisis “does not specify any particular procedure as elective or essential. Instead, it leaves the decision up to the medical provider.”
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Arkansas: Restricted   

On May 7, U.S. District Judge Brian Miller denied a request from the only procedural abortion clinic in Arkansas to block a state rule that requires people to have a negative coronavirus test before having an abortion, the Associated Press reports. 

A lack of COVID-19 testing, the clinic had argued, meant the rule prevented people from having abortions.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on April 22 allowed Arkansas to ban most abortions as part of the state’s COVID-19 policy. The court’s ruling said the state health department order banning abortion during the pandemic “is a legally valid response to the circumstances confronted by the Governor and state health officials,” according to the Associated Press

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California: Accessible 

Abortion care has not been restricted in California, according to the California Department of Public Health.

“It is up to each facility to develop its own policy on … what elective surgeries or other elective care to provide,” a health department spokesperson told Rewire.News by email. “The California Department of Public Health is assisting health facilities across the state in order to ensure high quality, safe, and effective care is provided to all patients in California, whether for COVID-19 or any other need.”
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Colorado: Accessible 

Abortion care will remain accessible in Colorado during the COVID-19 crisis.

An order from Gov. Jared Polis (D) said a medical procedure would be considered essential if “there is a risk of metastasis or progression of staging of a disease or condition if the surgery or procedure is not performed.”
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Delaware: Accessible 
Abortion will be available in Delaware during the COVID-19 pandemic. A spokesperson for the state’s Joint Information Center told Rewire.News that “all reproductive health services are considered essential services” during the crisis.
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Florida: Accessible 

Abortion services continue in Florida despite anti-choice organizations urging Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to ban abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Florida’s COVID-19 Call Center told Rewire.News on April 2 that the “decision on providing elective vs. non-elective services is made by the healthcare provider,” in accordance with the governor’s executive order on medical procedures during the virus outbreak. 

Anti-choice activists in Florida are hoping DeSantis, an abortion rights foe, will use the crisis to stop abortion care in the state, according to the Palm Beach Post. None of DeSantis’ executive orders during the outbreak have prohibited abortions in Florida, the Post reported.
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Hawaii: Accessible

The Hawaii state government’s COVID-19 order recognizes abortion care as an essential health-care service.

“While the current situation is burdening many sectors of our society, there is no basis to infringe upon a woman’s right to safe medical services, including reproductive health care, as part of the government’s response to COVID-19,” Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors (D) said in a statement.
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Idaho: Accessible

Niki Forbing-Orr, a spokesperson for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, told Rewire.News on March 31 that the state “has not explicitly changed any policies around providers who offer abortion services because of COVID-19.”
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Illinois: Accessible

Reproductive health-care providers were included in a list of essential health services released March 20 by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) administration, according to NBC Chicago
Beginning March 23, Planned Parenthood of Illinois consolidated its services to six clinics. Staff from the other 11 Planned Parenthood health centers will work out of the six clinics that remain operational, NBC Chicago reported.
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Indiana: Contentious 

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill (R) signed an amicus brief backing Texas’ push to suspend abortion services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, in an email to Rewire.News, Indiana’s Joint Information Center said the state’s COVID-19 order “directs all healthcare facilities, hospitals, surgical centers, veterinarians, dental offices, dermatologists and abortion clinics to postpone or cancel all elective or non-urgent procedures, unless doing so would cause harm to the patient as determined by a healthcare provider.”

Chris Charbonneau, CEO Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said in a statement that the organization is complying with the state’s COVID-19 directive. 
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Iowa: Accessible  

Abortion care will continue in Iowa amid the COVID-19 pandemic after the state and abortion rights advocates came to an agreement before an April 1 court hearing, the Des Moines Register reported. 

The American Civil Liberties of Iowa and Planned Parenthood Federation of America had filed a legal challenge on March 30 against Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ (R) order to stop procedural abortions as the state grapples with COVID-19. On March 29, Reynolds said abortion would be considered an elective medical procedure as part of the state’s emergency COVID-19 policy. 
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Kentucky: Contentious 

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) has asked the state’s top health official to confirm that abortion providers are violating Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) order banning elective medical procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cameron said he would take action against abortion clinics in Kentucky if Cabinet for Health and Family Services Acting Secretary Eric Friedlander certifies that they’re in violation of the state’s COVID-19 policy, Kentucky Today reported. Republicans in the Kentucky legislature have sought to circumvent the Beshear administration and empower Cameron to hassle clinics with regulatory enforcement.

In a March 26 press conference, Beshear said he would “leave it to our health professionals to determine what falls in the elective or the essential.” 
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Louisiana: Contentious 

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) in a March 28 statement said June Medical Services, one of the state’s last facilities offering abortion services, should stop providing abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Landry said he hopes the state’s health department “will recognize that elective abortions are not essential procedures” and should therefore be banned during the COVID-19 crisis.

In a March 24 email to Rewire.News, a spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Health said the state had not prohibited any specific health procedures as part of its COVID-19 response. Kelly Zimmerman, a spokesperson for the state health department, told Rewire.News that doctors would “have to use their medical judgment to determine what is and what isn’t an emergency medical procedure.”
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Maryland: Accessible 

Diana Philip, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, told Rewire.News that abortion care has continued in the state during the COVID-19 emergency.

The organization in a March 23 statement said the “directive from the Maryland Department of Health makes it clear that medical care necessary for the health of the patient is essential, and not elective.”
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Massachusetts: Accessible

Health officials in Massachusetts declared abortion an essential procedure during the week of March 16.

“Terminating a pregnancy is not considered a nonessential, elective invasive procedure for the purpose of this guidance,” Elizabeth Kelley, director of the Massachusetts Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality, wrote in a memo, Mass Live reported. “However, the ultimate decision is based on clinical judgment by the caring physician.”
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Minnesota: Accessible

Reproductive health services will be considered essential and remain available as part of Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s (D) COVID-19 emergency plan, according to the Star Tribune.
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Mississippi: Accessible  

Mississippi’s COVID-19 abortion ban expired on April 27. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) had issued an executive order April 10 banning all “elective” medical procedures, including abortion.

Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the only facility providing abortion care in Mississippi. 
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New Jersey: Accessible

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) March 23 order ending “elective” medical procedures has an exemption for family planning services, including abortion care.

“The order provides that it shall not be interpreted in any way to limit access to family planning services, including termination of pregnancies,” Murphy’s order said. 
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New York: Accessible

Abortion services at Planned Parenthood clinics have continued in New York amid the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a March 20 BuzzFeed News report.
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North Dakota: Accessible 

Abortion care remains available in North Dakota during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.

“We’re not in a place where we’ve had to designate what an essential health service is,” Nicole Peske, a spokesperson for the department, told Rewire.News. “All health care facilities are operating as they normally would and decisions at this point are at the discretion of the facility.”
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Ohio: Accessible  

U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett on April 23 granted an injunction keeping abortion care available in Ohio as Republican state officials try to halt legal abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Courthouse News Service

Abortion providers in Ohio, along with Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, filed a lawsuit on March 30 seeking a temporary restraining order to keep the state attorney general from banning procedural abortions. Barrett granted, and then extended, the temporary restraining order; his latest ruling provides further protection for abortion access.

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Oklahoma: Accessible   

On April 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit allowed a lower court ruling to remain in place, keeping abortion care legal during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state had asked the appellate court for a stay of the preliminary injunction a federal district judge issued on April 20 allowing abortions to continue in Oklahoma; the request was denied.

A Tenth Circuit panel had upheld the district judge’s April 6 temporary restraining order.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) had banned abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic, calling it a nonessential, or “elective,” procedure, along with routine dermatological, ophthalmological, dental procedures, and orthopedic surgeries, the Oklahoman reported March 27.

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Oregon: Accessible

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) said the state’s COVID-19 emergency order “exempts abortion services from its delay of non-urgent surgical procedures.”

Rosenblum said in a statement that Oregon “will never budge from our guarantee of reproductive rights—including timely access to abortion services.”
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Tennessee: Accessible   

Abortion services in Tennessee can continue after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on April 24 upheld an injunction stopping the state from enforcing its COVID-19 abortion ban. 

On April 17, a federal district court granted an emergency motion allowing Tennessee abortion clinics to continue providing procedural abortions during the COVID-19 outbreak. The legal challenge was brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.

On April 8, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) released an executive order stating health-care providers in Tennessee “shall postpone surgical and invasive procedures that are elective and non-urgent.” The order, which took effect April 9 and expires April 30,  allows medication abortion to continue in the state.

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Texas: Accessible    

Abortion care in Texas has resumed after an April 22 filing from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), CBS News reported.

The state’s original COVID-19 order banning certain medical procedures, including abortion, expired on April 21, a month after it took effect.

The state’s new COVID-19 order, which took effect April 22, bars some medical procedures but includes exceptions for providers that don’t use hospital beds or request personal protective equipment. The state agreed that abortion providers in Texas qualified for those exceptions.

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Utah: Contentious 

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes (R) is one of 18 attorneys general to sign an amicus brief supporting Texas’ COVID-19 abortion ban, according to Kate Smith of CBS News. “If there ever was a situation where the individual’s rights yield to that of the public at large, it is during an epidemic,” according to the amicus brief. 

However, Charla Haley, director of communications for the Utah Department of Health, said the state was following federal guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Haley told Rewire.News that “a doctor will have to decide whether the abortion is medically necessary or elective.”
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Virginia: Accessible

The March 25 COVID-19 order released by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and the Virginia Department of Health said restrictions on medical procedures do “not apply to the full suite of family planning services and procedures.”
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Washington: Accessible 

The Washington state government does not consider abortion services as part of the “nonessential” category for COVID-19 emergency response policy, according to the Washington Post.
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Washington, D.C.: Accessible 

Abortion care is available in Washington, D.C., during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s health department told Rewire.News.

“The District of Columbia considers comprehensive reproductive health services time-sensitive and thus essential,” said Alison Reeves, a department spokesperson. 
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West Virginia: Contentious 

On April 1, the director of West Virginia’s only abortion provider told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that the facility would continue offering reproductive health services, including abortion care, during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) on April 2 said he would consult with the governor’s office and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources about enforcement of the state’s order to limit so-called elective medical procedures during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Gazette-Mail.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) referred to Morrisey during a press conference when asked about abortion access. Morrisey said there’s “no categorical exemption for abortion. There’s no categorical exemption for any procedure.”
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