Documenting the impact of COVID-19 on independent abortion clinics: A qualitative study

November 2020

Documenting the impact of COVID-19 on independent abortion clinics: A qualitative study

Abortion Care Network, Ibis Reproductive Health. Documenting the impact of COVID-19 on independent abortion clinics: A qualitative study. November 2020. 

The full report is available for download below, or here via Abortion Care Network.

Independent clinics ensure that people seeking abortion in the United States are able to access the high-quality health care they need, serving three out of every five people who have an abortion each year.  These clinics play an especially critical role in providing abortion care after the first trimester; in 2019, they represented 62% of clinics who provided care after 13 weeks, and 94% of clinics who provided care after 22 weeks.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, independent clinics, like all abortion providers across the United States, faced an increasing number of medically unnecessary regulations and anti-choice extremism which made it extremely difficult to stay in business. In fact, over the past six years, 32% of independent providers have closed their doors. The spread of COVID-19 in the United States has triggered new, unprecedented challenges to abortion access for clients and for clinics. Clients may face delays in accessing care due to a number of factors related to COVID-19, including mandatory quarantine measures, travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders, and increased care-giving responsibilities. In addition, a number of states have tried to use the pandemic as a reason to temporarily ban most abortions by deeming abortion services “non-essential” or “elective” procedures. As travel and legal barriers delay clients in accessing abortion care, there may be a surge of clients seeking abortion after the first trimester.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced clinics to quickly adjust their protocols, including screening clients and staff for symptoms, and extending clinic hours and adjusting shifts to reduce the number of staff and clients in the clinic, all to ensure that their clients are able to safely access care and their staff are able to stay healthy while providing services. According to the Abortion Care Network’s (ACN’s) latest Keep Our Clinics report, 92% of its member clinics indicated a need for financial support, and 50% reported an increase in the number of clients traveling for care since the pandemic started.  As clinics see an increasing number of clients traveling for care, and a potentially greater volume of later abortion clients, it is essential that clinics have the resources to accommodate these changes.