More than 50 anti-abortion groups have sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar calling on public health officials to urge abortion providers to cease operations during the coronavirus outbreak.
In the letter Tuesday, the anti-abortion groups said a halt in abortions would free up needed medical equipment for the coronavirus response. The coalition also asked public health officials to ensure that emergency response funds are not given to abortion providers and that telemedicine abortion is not expanded during the outbreak.
The letter was signed by leaders from more than 50 anti-abortion groups, including Susan B. Anthony List, National Right to Life and the Family Research Council, among others.
On Wednesday, a group of Texas abortion providers represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Lawyering Project sued Texas after the state pushed to ban abortions because of the coronavirus outbreak. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said this week in a statement that health care professionals, including abortion providers, must immediately pause all medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures.
"This week our clinic staff had to cancel over 150 appointments. They listened to patients sobbing and witnessed their feelings of helplessness, sometimes even resorting to begging for the abortions they needed," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health and Whole Woman's Health Alliance, which operates three clinics in Texas.
Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement that anti-abortion activists are exploiting the pandemic to push their agenda.
"A public health emergency is not the time to play politics. The safety and health of patients, our staff and our communities must remain the highest priority as our country faces an unprecedented crisis," Johnson said. "Delays or additional barriers to care can make it more difficult or even impossible for some patients to access safe, legal abortion."
Download the NBC News app for full coverage and alerts about the coronavirus outbreak
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other reproductive health groups issued a joint statement last week that said that abortion is a time-sensitive, essential service and that a delay in care can put a woman at risk.
"Medically unnecessary regulations that are barriers to patient care that many states have put in place over the past decade should be rescinded or relaxed, especially during this time," said Dr. Ted Anderson, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "Forcing a patient to continue pregnancy can pose threats to the safety and health of the patient."