Doctors and associations fear for the health and life of women because the experts see access to abortions during the corona pandemic at risk. In a joint paper, the Doctors for Choice and Pro-Choice networks, the Working Group on Women’s Health in Medicine, Psychotherapy, and Society, and the German Family Planning Association Pro Familia writes: “We fear that women will resort to ‘unsafe abortion methods’ again – with the risk of damage to health such as inflammation, sterility and bleeding up to death.”
In Germany, unwanted pregnant women have to attend several appointments outside of the home to be able to get a termination: the mandatory advice, a gynecological examination, an ultrasound examination, the termination, and a follow-up examination. Because of Corona, this is now “acutely endangered,” it says: through restrictions in the counseling centers, quarantines, exit restrictions and travel restrictions in neighboring countries. In many cases, the fear is that the deadline until which demolitions are possible in Germany can no longer be met.
The associations, therefore, require federal and state governments as well as health insurance companies to allow abortion with the “abortion pills” Mifegyne and Cytotec with telemedical support until the end of the ninth week of pregnancy after only one visit to a doctor at home. This also corresponds to the guidelines of the World Health Organization WHO.
“Abortion is not an elective achievement, but an emergency,” said Christiane von Rauch, head of the Pro-Choice association. Following the pandemic regulations, abortions would also have to be recognized as such and further surgery to be secured in the clinics. Practices and clinics should remain open to pregnant women.
“Time is running out of women”
The doctor Kristina Hänel, who is accused of paragraph 219a, said: “Time is running out for women.” You can already see that unwanted pregnant women come to her practice in later weeks because the bureaucratic procedure for a termination makes it even more difficult than before.
Hänel has therefore imposed strict rules: “I no longer have direct contacts with other people. I limited all contacts to two to three meters – also in my private life, to keep my workforce. ”In her practice in Gießen, she introduced shift work. Employees work every two weeks: part of the team stays at home so that they can continue their practice should an illness occur. Unintentionally pregnant women are no longer allowed to bring accompaniment to abortions.
“Under Corona, you can no longer be responsible for placing women in the practice for several hours without medical reasons,” said Hänel. “I want legal certainty, and we can’t waste any time on that now,” says Hänel.
It is also still unclear how to deal with unwanted pregnant women in the future who have already tested positive. Hänel has never had such a case before, she would have to decide on a case-by-case basis. Von Rauch, however, is already warning that abortion practices are sometimes not adequately supplied with protective clothing and protective masks.
Already 120 to 130 kilometers drive
In Bavaria, for example, you can see how problematic the situation is for unwanted pregnant women. In Eastern Bavaria, Pro Familia’s regional manager, Thoralf Fricke, said the last remaining doctor, who was still stopping after the tenth week, had given up his work in the wake of the Corona pandemic. He was over 70 years old and worried about his health and that of his patients.
Even for dropouts by the tenth week, the women would have to travel 120 to 130 kilometers. If you don’t have your car or need to look after children, you can hardly do this. Sometimes the partner should also not be aware that termination is planned. “It’s all bad without Corona,” said Fricke. “Now the situation is really dramatic. Even those who went to Austria, Salzburg, Vienna – that’s difficult now.”
Due to travel restrictions, late cancellations in other countries such as the Netherlands or Great Britain are currently not possible, warns Doctors for Choice. Polish women are, particularly at risk. Abortions are almost completely prohibited in Poland, which is why Polish women often travel to Germany for abortions.
“All the time we had to deal with morals, and now what we always said is suddenly there: we have to protect the lives of women,” says Kristina Hänel. “If women cannot find a way, they will endanger their lives again. Either through suicides or failed terminations.”
In countries where there is no access to abortions, women often get punched in the abdomen or swallow large amounts of medication because they hope that this will cause bleeding, said Christiane von Rauch, the association’s executive director Pro-choice.
Among other things, the association supports doctors who are accused of paragraph 219a. Even in the older generation here, women tried to insert objects into the cervix or inject soap solutions into the uterus to trigger a termination, von Rauch said. “Of course, none of this works.”
In the wake of the Corona crisis, other European countries are taking measures to better prevent unwanted pregnancies. In France, for example, women can get the pill without a new prescription by the end of May. The right of women to control their bodies cannot be questioned in times of a health crisis, it said in a statement.