November 18, 2022

Berke-Weiss Law attends City Bar Webinar on Pregnancy during the Pandemic

Since the end of March, we’ve spent a great deal of time talking about the economic and social impacts of coronavirus and the lockdowns on working parents, but today we want to talk about how it’s affecting pregnancy. Specifically, what is and isn’t being done to help pregnant women during this incredibly strange and new time. In this blog we will describe observations from a recent City Bar webinar we attended concerning reproductive healthcare during the pandemic. In a subsequent post we will follow with further observations and information on initiatives underway to help expecting mothers navigate pandemic pregnancy as well as obstacles to healthy pregnancy that we must continue to address.

On June 20, we participated in the “City Bar Webinar: Reproductive and Maternal Healthcare During a Global Pandemic” moderated by Diamond J. Brown from the Lawyers Network for The Center for Reproductive Rights. The participants were Nan Strauss, Managing Director of Policy, Advocacy, and Grantmaking at Every Mother Counts, Jenny May, a Senior Staff Attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Rosemary Codding, the Director of Falls Church Healthcare Center in Virginia.

Each participant brought important information to the table about different aspects of pregnancy advocacy and how it has been affected by the pandemic, especially those cases where we already saw major issues before March. 

First, Nan Strauss discussed many of the ways the overmedicalization and underfunding of pregnancy has had serious impacts on women, and especially women of color and low-income communities. Before the pandemic, underfunding, such as reimbursement rates from Medicaid and the lack of coverage from Medicaid and private insurers for services such as midwifery has had a negative impact on low-income mothers. Covid has increased the pressure for hospitals to exclude support services, such as doulas, and hospitals are also under immense pressure to devote resources to pandemic-related care. Strauss did note that New York State has made some effort to improve access to services, such as providing at least one support worker during delivery and immediate postpartum periods and developing a Covid maternity task force.

Jenny May spoke about the attacks being made on reproductive rights, particularly abortion access. She noted that Covid has been used as cover to get anti-abortion agenda on the books under the guise of public health and safety orders, despite evidence to the contrary. She noted that the American College of OBGYNs and seven other leading medical/health organizations have argued that abortion care is essential, because there will be risks for patient health and safety if abortions are delayed or denied. Furthermore, continued pregnancy when a woman elects for an abortion will take away important resources such as PPE. Thus far, abortion rights have been reinstated in almost every state that had initially banned them.

Rosemary Codding provided important perspective as an on-the-ground reproductive health worker. She reported on Virginia’s position that abortion is among the family planning services deemed essential by the state. She also described how Falls Church Healthcare Center is operating during the pandemic and the specific challenges the center faces, such as minimizing viral spread, integrating the rapid changes in state health policy into the daily operations, and dealing with supply chain issues.

In a subsequent post, we will do a deeper dive into some of the many important issues Codding, Strauss and May brought up during the webinar. Particularly, we plan to discuss racial disparities in childbirth and how the issues brought up in the webinar impact low-income mothers.

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