There are reports that only five hospitals in Austria are providing abortion care in the context of the pandemic and that women are facing challenges in accessing abortion and contraception services. There have been calls on the government to waive prescription requirements for contraception and to cover the costs of contraception and abortion care at least until the end of the year.
TheGynmed Clinic is still open, explains its head Christian Fiala, to Salzburg24.He makes it clear that unwanted pregnancies are medical emergencies that cannot be postponed. At the moment, however, freedom of movement in Austria is severely restricted, and a trip to the state capital for an abortion is not easy to organisewithout a valid reason. Only five hospitals are known to provide abortions at all: one in Salzburg, one in Linz, and three in Vienna. Dr Fiala expects there will be an increase in unwanted pregnancies in these circumstances, and also because access to contraceptives has also become more difficult.
Medical abortion pills may only be issued in hospitals, which a Dr Halhuber-Ahlman describes as a completely senseless situation, which should be changed right away to allow gynaecologists to provide in their clinics.
SOURCE: Salzburg 24, by Jacqueline Winkler, 16 April 2020 (auf Deutsch)
Public Defender of Rights challenges Health Minister’s call for refusal of abortions
The Public Defender of Rights, Mária Patakyová has called on the Slovak Minister of Health to guarantee access to safe and timely abortion care following reports that many hospitals in the country are no longer providing legal abortions during the pandemic. “I consider it necessary to emphasize that the Covid-19 pandemic should not be used as an excuse to unduly interfere with women’s sexual and reproductive rights”, she said.
According to a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health, the circumstances that exclude providing abortions are health reasons! The Ministry was allowing only urgent life-saving operations, which he said did not include abortions, and he asked women to protect their own health and not to endanger the health and lives of doctors by not asking them to provide abortions.
Reports indicate that abortion care is being treated as essential healthcare in Slovenia and that women are able to access timely care during the pandemic as an emergency service, despite restrictions due to the pandemic.According to the public relations representative of the University Medical Center Ljubljana, gynaecological procedures are going smoothly.
According toDr Barbara Mihevc Ponikvar, patients who want to terminate a pregnancy can also turn to their gynaecologist or a gynaecologist who replaces them.They can call a phone number and receive instructions.There may be some differences between providers in terms of procedure, depending on agreements with the local hospitals.In some cases, an e-referral is issued for hospital treatment, while in others the woman is examined beforehand by her gynaecologist. The safety of patients and staff is taken care of in the same way as with other medical treatments and operations: with an accurate history and use of protective equipment. Patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infection are treated separately.
Telemedicine for pre-abortion counselling permitted during the pandemic
There have been reports of increasing problems in access to abortion care during the pandemic in Germany. Several parliamentary groups of the Federal Parliament have called on the government to ensure safe access to abortion care, including by recognising surgical abortion as emergency treatment and waiving the mandatory waiting period requirement.
ProFamilia advice centres and Doctors for Choice say, however, thatdue to their age, many abortion doctors belong to a high-risk group and may therefore have to close their practices,while hospitals could cancel planned abortions to create space for Covid-19 patients.
Following calls for the German authorities to ensure that abortion care is provided as an essential health service and permit early medical abortion with pills at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Federal Minister for Women Franziska Giffey told ministers for equality and women in the 16 German states that mandatory pre-abortion counselling can take place by phone. Certificates saying that counselling had taken place can be sent by email or post, all without personal contact.
Several states had already agreed to this approach, including North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria, Hamburg, Baden-Württemberg and Thuringia.Left-wing Bundestag member Cornelia Möhring called for acomplete suspension of the obligation to provide counsellingduring the crisisbut this has not been taken up.
Women in the Greens parliamentary group have also said that the reflection period between pregnancy counselling and termination should be suspended, and thatquarantine measures should not lead to the abandonment of pregnant women from abroad who travel to Germany for abortions due to restrictions in their home countries. Moreover, they called forthe Ministry of Health, the Federal Medical Association and the State Medical Association to ensure that would should be able to have abortion with pills at home.
[Note: These reports are three weeks old. Please send any updates!]