State requests providers delay elective abortions because of COVID-19 pandemic

Alaska Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum speaks at a news conference on COVID-19, Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Creative Commons photo by Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

State health officials and the Dunleavy administration have moved to temporarily 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 healthcare 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. 

Get the latest coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska

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 — surgical abortions needed to protect the life or physical health of the mother 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” and states that all elective surgeries be delayed until June 15.

RELATED: Anchorage officials say COVID measures are helping stem disease transmissions

At a Tuesday night press briefing, Crum said there is no specific timeline on how long the procedure could be delayed.

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

The state’s list includes several other types of surgeries including cancer, cardiac and children’s procedures, including circumcisions, that could be postponed. 
Alaska joins five other states, Ohio, Texas, Iowa, Alabama and Oklahoma that have temporarily restricted elective abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

RELATED: Dunleavy vetoes millions in programs, but says federal stimulus funds will make up for most cuts