Baker Administration: Abortions Exempt From Coronavirus-Related Restrictions On Elective Surgery

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If you want to have a non-essential, elective surgery in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts anytime soon, that may be a challenge — unless it’s an elective surgical abortion.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s administration’s Department of Public Health issued guidance to hospitals on Tuesday on how they should manage their resources with coronavirus cases on the rise in the Commonwealth.

The Baker administration wants hospitals to leave at least 15 percent of their available staffed medical-surgical and intensive care unit bed capacity available in case there’s a further surge in cases. If a hospital cannot meet that threshold, then the administration says that by Monday, December 27 those hospitals in the Commonwealth “must reduce non-essential, non-urgent scheduled procedures performed on a daily basis by 100% by cancelling or postponing all such procedures.”

However, the administration’s rule leaves a carveout for elective abortions. The administration refers to abortions as “pregnancy terminations.”

“This reduction does not apply to ambulatory services that are not likely to lead to inpatient admission and preventative services, pediatric care or immunizations, pregnancy terminations, and essential, urgent inpatient procedures that have a high risk or would lead to a significant worsening of the patient’s condition if deferred,” the new policy reads. “Accordingly, such services and procedures should continue.”

Massachusetts Citizens for Life executive director Patricia Stewart criticized the Baker administration for the exemption.

“Once again, saving the life of an unborn child is simply not a public health priority for this administration,” Stewart told NewBostonPost in an email message. “Despite coronavirus cancellations of ‘elective surgeries,’ the elective slaughter of the unborn will continue throughout the Christmas season. Such surpassing evil chills the soul.” 

An elective abortion is the abortion of a pregnancy that doesn’t arise from rape or incest and one where the life of the mother isn’t threatened by the pregnancy. It’s unclear what percent of abortions in Massachusetts are elective because the Commonwealth doesn’t keep track of those statistics. However, it is widely believed that nearly all abortions in the state are elective.

In 2016, 92 percent of the abortions that took place in Florida were classified as elective by the state’s reporting statistics.

Elective abortion is legal through the first 24 weeks of pregnancy in the Commonwealth. The United States of America is one of seven countries in the world that allows for elective abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, alongside China and North Korea, according to The Washington Post.

The press office for Governor Baker could not be reached for comment on Tuesday or Wednesday this week. Nor could a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

In March 2020, when the coronavirus lockdowns were first implemented, the Baker administration similarly exempted abortion from a ban on elective surgeries at hospitals in Massachusetts — a ban that at the time included knee replacement, hip replacement, excising cancerous skin lesions, colonoscopy, tooth extraction, removing ingrown toenails, and a procedure called lithotripsy that uses shock waves to break down kidney stones.

One year nine months later, the state Department of Public Health’s memo (dated Tuesday, December 21, 2021) does not list types of procedures that are to be limited or prohibited. Instead, the memo makes a general statement:  “DPH defines non-essential, non-urgent scheduled procedures as procedures that are scheduled in advance because the procedure is not a medical emergency and where delay will not result in adverse outcomes to the patient’s health.”


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