State calls on medical providers to delay elective abortions in response to COVID-19 pandemic

Alaska Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum speaks at a news conference on COVID-19 on April 1. (Creative Commons photo by Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Alaska state health officials and the Dunleavy administration have moved to suspend elective abortions during the coronavirus emergency.

That procedure is listed along with dozens of others in an addendum to a mid-March mandate that health care facilities and clinicians prioritize urgent and emergency visits and procedures to conserve medical equipment and personnel for response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That mandate is supposed to last for three months.

State officials put out a list on Tuesday that clarifies which procedures are classified as “elective” and guidance on how long they could be delayed — ranging from weeks to months. Abortion is on that list. According to the state’s guidance, when a pregnancy threaten the life or physical health of the mother, an abortion can still be performed.

Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said the state followed guidance from the American College of Surgeons about which procedures should be delayed. According to that guidance, abortions “if significantly delayed, could cause significant harm.”

The state’s mandate lists abortion as a surgery that could be delayed “for a few weeks.”

Crum said there is no specific timeline on how long the procedure could be delayed.

“We’ll leave it up to the health care providers’ choice,” he said.

The state’s list includes several other types of surgeries — including cancer, cardiac and children’s procedures such as circumcisions — that could be postponed.

Alaska joins five other states — Ohio, Texas, Iowa, Alabama and Oklahoma — that have temporarily banned elective abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

This is a breaking news story that will be updated. 

Rashah McChesney

Daily News Editor, KTOO

I help the newsroom establish daily news priorities and do hands-on editing to ensure a steady stream of breaking and enterprise news for a local and regional audience.

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