(CNSNews.com) -- The National Abortion Federation (NAF), a professional association of abortion providers, issued a statement on Tuesday urging public leaders to ensure "outpatient abortion clinics can remain open" and that hospitals continue to provide abortions during the coronavirus pandemic.
The NAF stressed that "abortion care" is an "essential health service" and must not be delayed or postponed as hospitals and medical offices deal with coronavirus patients.
"As states and municipalities enact measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, more non-essential businesses will be instructed -- or required -- to close," reads the statement. "At the same time, hospitals are preparing for a surge in COVID-19 cases and increased strain on their staff, resources, and systems, and will likely begin indefinitely postponing non-essential or elective procedures."
"During this public health crisis, pregnancy care, including abortion care, remains an essential health service," said the NAF. "The National Abortion Federation (NAF) calls on leaders to ensure that outpatient abortion clinics can remain open and urges hospitals to continue to provide abortion care."
"Abortion care is a time-sensitive service that cannot be significantly deferred without profound consequences for women and their families," said the association. "Abortion is provided for almost one in five pregnancies in the United States, as part of the continuum of pregnancy care. It is an essential health service."
"An individual and family decide to end a pregnancy for a complex constellation of reasons that include the impact of pregnancy and birth on their health, ability to work, and strained economic circumstances," according to the statement. "These are conditions that do not go away -- and are likely heightened -- in pandemic conditions."
"Denying or deferring abortion care places an immediate burden on patients, their families, and the health system, and can have profound and lasting consequences," said the association. "Patients presenting for time-sensitive care, including abortion care, need timely access to treatment, even during this pandemic."
"As we navigate COVID-19, it is critical that leaders treat outpatient abortion providers as essential businesses, and that hospital systems ensure the continuation of abortion care as an essential service," said the NAF.
According to its website, NAF members include "include individuals, private and non-profit clinics, Planned Parenthood affiliates, women’s health centers, physicians’ offices, and hospitals who together care for approximately half the women who choose abortion in the U.S. and Canada each year. Our members also include public hospitals and both public and private clinics in Mexico City and private clinics in Colombia."
The NAF was founded in 1977.
According to the National Right to Life Committee, based on data from the CDC and the Guttmacher Institute, there were 862,320 abortions in the United States in 2017. Since 1973, when abortion was legalized nationwide, an estimated 61,628,584 abortions have occurred in the United States.