Recorded Dec. 1, 2020; broadcast on Jan. 7, 2021.
Mallory Schwarz and Arzina Lakhani both work for NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri. Schwarz is the executive director and Lakhani is a policy intern.
They spoke about some of the effects the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had on access to reproductive health care and abortions in Missouri.
This piece was reported and produced by Isabella Paxton.
Region: City of St. Louis
Policy Intern, NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri
Executive Director, NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri
Mallory Schwarz: What has been a challenge, I think, is that traditionally, for people that are going to seek an abortion, they might go with a partner or a support person, a companion. And clinics have had to limit the number of people that can come in. And so, patients have had to come on their own without their companion.
That has been, that has been a challenge because having that support person with you for that emotional support is really important.
The other challenge that we've seen, is something unique to clinics that provide abortion versus again, my dentist office is that there is there are protesters who put themselves outside to harass and try to humiliate patients and providers who are just going to get medical care, are going to do their jobs.
And those provide those protesters do not follow or comply with the same restrictions that patients or providers do. So, they are not wearing masks, they are not obeying 6 feet social distancing rules, they are approaching patients and providers, they are talking close to them. And continuing that yelling and then name calling and all the things that they do – outside of the pandemic.
We've even seen instances, both of Missouri and there were reports of it in other states. Protesters like coughing or fake coughing on – in the direction of patients or providers as part of their intimidation.
And so, we have seen these protest groups exploit the pandemic to further harass and harm the patients and providers who are just, again, going about their lives, getting their health care, going to work.
Something that's really important is that the NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri clinic escort program is currently ongoing, but our program was on hiatus the beginning of the pandemic also because we didn’t know how best to keep people safe yet, right?
And so, at this point, the clinic escorts are back in action, and they provide a really important role in supporting patients as they make the trip from their car to the clinic doors, walking through the protest line or past the protesters.
And so, that has been… our volunteer clinic escorts were so thrilled to be able to go back to doing those volunteer hours, once we figure it out our best plan of action to keep everybody safe. Because I think that, for them, they really hated knowing that patients and providers were still facing this onslaught of harassment and not being able to be there to provide support.
So, our clinic escorts are back at it, but that's been a challenge too, right? They have to maintain their six-foot distance and try to provide that little bit of additional support for patients and providers as they enter the clinic.
Copyright 2017 KBIA and The University of Missouri. Development and Design by Nathan Lawrence.