The Role of the Coronavirus Pandemic in State-Level Abortion Restrictions

How to Cite

Husain, A. (2021). The Role of the Coronavirus Pandemic in State-Level Abortion Restrictions. Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal, 11(1).


In response to COVID-19, many state governments chose to halt elective or nonessential procedures to free up personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline medical workers. To help guide and inform state health policies, an emerging body of literature developed which contextualized the role of abortions as time-sensitive, essential medical procedures. Despite this, Texas, Indiana, and Iowa issued executive orders restricting elective or nonessential procedures, and included abortions among the medical services being banned. This content analysis analyzed executive orders and subsequent communications from officials in all three states to identify rhetorical patterns and the language that was used to connect the coronavirus pandemic to abortion care. The major themes that emerged were the expansion of gubernatorial powers due to the declaration of an emergency, connecting abortion services to PPE shortages, classifying abortions as “elective” procedures, differentiating medical and surgical abortions, and purposeful avoidance of the actual term “abortion.” The findings indicate that governors in each of these three states used COVID-19 to further restrict abortion access, and they were able to use rhetoric to create a distinct narrative and justify their policies.
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