Rethinking “Elective” Procedures for Women's Reproduction during Covid-19

Marielle S. Gross, Bryna J. Harrington, Carolyn B. Sufrin, Ruth R. Faden

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Common hospital and surgical center responses to the Covid-19 pandemic included curtailing “elective” procedures, which are typically determined based on implications for physical health and survival. However, in the focus solely on physical health and survival, procedures whose main benefits advance components of well-being beyond health, including self-determination, personal security, economic stability, equal respect, and creation of meaningful social relationships, have been disproportionately deprioritized. We describe how female reproduction-related procedures, including abortion, surgical sterilization, reversible contraception devices and in vitro fertilization, have been broadly categorized as “elective,” a designation that fails to capture the value of these procedures or their impact on women's overall well-being. We argue that corresponding restrictions and delays of these procedures are problematically reflective of underlying structural views that marginalize women's rights and interests and therefore threaten to propagate gender injustice during the pandemic and beyond. Finally, we propose a framework for triaging reproduction-related procedures during Covid-19 that is more individualized, accounts for their significance for comprehensive well-being, and can be used to inform resumption of operations as well as subsequent restriction phases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-43
Number of pages4
JournalHastings Center Report
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • abortion
  • assisted reproduction
  • elective surgery
  • reproductive ethics
  • well-being
  • women's reproduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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