Dear Friends and Allies,
Even as we socially distance, and many of us are entering the third week of isolation, NAPW continues to make vital connections. For example, the coronavirus pandemic is revealing barriers to safe, effective, and respectful care for pregnant people, whether they are seeking to end a pregnancy or to continue a pregnancy and give birth. A New York Times editorial calls on the government to "Make Abortion More Available During the Pandemic - Not Less" and NAPW issued this statement addressing What We Can Learn From Hospital Restrictions on Birth Support During the Coronavirus Pandemic."
The pandemic is also exposing the harm done by overregulation of certain medications people need as a matter of basic health and well-being. These medications include mifepristone and misoprostol (medications that can be used safely and effectively to end a pregnancy at home, with or without formal medical support). Lack of access has prompted an online petition calling on the FDA to lift restrictions on medication abortion.
The harm done by overregulation of methadone and buprenorphine (medications used to treat opioid dependency) is also being exposed. Current regulations, for example, often require methadone patients to travel every day to a clinic to obtain their daily dose of medication. Thankfully, SAMHSA has made it possible for states to take action that would allow so-called "stable" patients to receive more take-home doses (up to 28 days worth). This change, however, is not enough. Methadone, buprenorphine, mifepristone, and misoprostol should be accessible to everyone who needs it; these medications should have been accessible before the pandemic. And if these medications become (as they should) more available during this pandemic, increased accessibility must be sustained after this emergency has passed.
Finally, calls to reduce incarcerated populations in light of the pandemic also speak to the need to stop adding to that population by arresting women in relationship to their pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes. Elected prosecutors and groups such as Color of Change have called attention to the fact that outbreaks of the coronavirus in jails and prisons can spread quickly and impact not only those behind bars but entire communities. This concern provides yet another reason to end efforts to criminalize the people who get pregnant as well as the people who provide care to pregnant patients, including abortion providers and midwives. That is why NAPW is calling for quick action to reduce the incarcerated and detained population, including Chelsea Becker, a California woman incarcerated for experiencing a pregnancy loss. Now would also be a great time for prosecutors in upstate New York to drop felony criminal charges against home-birth midwives.
Of course, these are only a few of the connections between policies and issues that are exposed during this extraordinary time. Others include income inequality, the lack of a coordinated health care system, and the corporatization of public goods and services. NAPW looks forward to continuing to work with you (remotely) on all of these issues close to our hearts and that are core to our mission.
With best wishes for health, safety, and fortitude.
Lynn M. Paltrow
Founder and Executive Director
National Advocates for Pregnant Women