In my New Mexico reproductive health clinic one week in early April, I saw more than twice the number of patients usually scheduled, all seeking abortion care. Two-thirds of those patients were from Texas – some came from towns as close as 6 hours away, and at least two drove for more than 11 hours to receive care at our clinic. In addition to the many reasons women pursue abortion care, all of my patients had an overriding concern about the COVID-19 pandemic. Many worried for the safety of their parents and children; some worried about the safety of continuing a pregnancy during the pandemic; and many were worried for themselves because of the risk involved in their employment or their status as the sole breadwinner for their families. One patient chose an abortion for severe fetal anomalies diagnosed in the early second trimester; she had an appointment with a provider in Texas, which was canceled the day the Texas abortion ban was reinstated. New Mexico, more than 10 hours away, was the closest location to receive the care she needed; she traveled by car with her children.
I am fortunate to live in New Mexico. On March 24, New Mexico Secretary of Health Kathyleen “Kathy” Kunkel affirmed reproductive health care as an essential service. The, the U.S. professional organization for reproductive health care, agrees. In a joint statement with seven other professional organizations, they emphasize the importance of abortion access: “Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care. It is also a time-sensitive service. The consequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.”
Anti-abortion politicians are using the crisis as an opportunity to restrict health care access as they have done for my patients who have driven hundreds of miles for essential care they should receive in their home communities. My heart goes out to our patients and the burden they have been forced to take on at a time when our politicians should be protecting and ensuring their safety.
is an obstetrician and gynecologist in New Mexico. She has no relevant financial disclosures. Dr. Espey is a member of the Ob.Gyn. News Editorial Advisory Board. Email her at .