Few qualitative findings have been published that explore and identify the challenges experienced by independent abortion providers during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States (US). In this paper, we explore these themes while expanding the concept of “abortion exceptionalism” beyond its original legal meaning to address the impact of abortion stigma.
Twenty abortion providers from independent abortion clinics throughout the US South and Midwest participated in semi-structured interviews in June and July 2020. Interviews explored the challenges of providing abortion care in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and sought to identify how clinics strategized and amended their clinical practices to continue providing abortion care during this time.
All providers we spoke to noted significant challenges to providing abortion care in the early days of COVID-19. In addition to experiencing the same concerns as other health care institutions, abortion clinics also faced additional, unique burdens that can only be attributed to the politics of abortion exceptionalism. Examples of this abortion exceptionalism include abrupt orders to close clinics, the need to rely on traveling physicians, legislature-imposed limits on telemedicine, heightened activities of protesters, and non-evidence-based regulation of medication abortion.
Despite major challenges and differential treatment, independent abortion clinics in the US persevered to continue to provide abortion care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.