Coronavirus and Women Fact Sheet
Updated April 21, 2020
Why is coronavirus a women’s issue?
- Any issue that impacts our society is a women’s issue – gender and race disparities must be taken into account at all levels of decision making in order to ensure that particular groups of marginalized people are not left behind during this crisis. Whether that means passing more comprehensive paid sick leave legislation or simply improving our response to Coronavirus in general, we need to look at how any decision would impact women differently than men.
Ways that Coronavirus disproportionately impacts women:
Primary caregivers in most families are women
- The burden of caring for sick children or other family members usually falls on women
- This would make it more likely for women (especially those who are mothers) to contract the virus.
- Coronavirus spreads most quickly amongst families that are living together in a shared space
- The majority of health care workers are women, with some estimates indicating as high as 70 percent, and the overwhelming majority of nurses are women.
- These women are on the frontlines in hospitals and will certainly be exposed as the virus spreads and many are lacking key protective equipment.
- Nurses are the ones who have the most contact with patients – taking temperatures, doing blood tests, etc.
Paid sick leave and workplace flexibility
- Women make up a large percentage of part-time workers, who are least likely to have any kind of health care benefits or paid sick leave from their employer.
- Women in these kinds of jobs, hourly rather than salaried, might leave their positions to take care of sick family members and would have a harder time finding work at the same income level after the epidemic.
- Two-thirds of tipped restaurant workers in the United States are women.
- The Fuller Project has reported exclusive new data showing women’s unemployment claims have surged dramatically and disproportionately. Claims submitted by women jumped from an estimated 13 to 39 percentage points above the norm in at least five states — NY, NJ, MN, VA, and OR – during the last two weeks of March.
This story also highlights the fact that the Labor Department is not collecting key demographic data on unemployment claims that would enable the government to understand the scope of this surge nationwide and inform policymaking. The full piece is HERE.
Lack of access to affordable childcare as schools close
- Single mothers whose children’s schools are closed either have to find childcare or take-off work and stay home.
- For women without access to paid sick leave or paid family leave this could result in a massive loss of income.
- Women are 10x more likely than men to stay home with sick children.
- There are 5x as many single mothers as single fathers in the United States.
Women in domestic violence and homeless shelters
- “40,000 adults and children are in shelters or in housing with support from local domestic violence programs.”
- These women and children cannot be isolated – they have no choice but to live in communal spaces. These shelters and clinics need federal resources to stay open and protect their residents.
- Women who are quarantined or forced to stay home with abusive parents/husbands are at higher risk as our society begins to increase social distancing.
Women who are Immigrants
- Ports of entry to the United States are being closed for fear of spreading COVID-19 – this can pose an additional barrier to women seeking asylum or new opportunities in the U.S. and can force them to return to harmful conditions and environments indefinitely.
- There is no way to practice social distancing in an immigration detainment center – unless the government takes action, women, children, and families in these centers are at higher risk
- Immigrants who are already immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions are being exposed to the virus through their inability to social distance.
- Three unaccompanied migrant children in government custody have tested positive for COVID-19.
- Interior U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints may serve as barriers to receiving necessary healthcare.
- ICE is halting most immigration enforcement but fear of enforcement may still keep people from seeking care.
- Some U.S. Immigration courts remain open, putting immigrant families and staff at increased risk.
Women Seeking Abortion Care
- There are concerns that women needing abortion care and other forms of reproductive health care will face needless barriers.
- Anti-abortion politicians may use this public health crisis to try to shut down clinics and stop abortion care. Some states such as Texas are issuing orders to health care providers to halt what they describe as unnecessary medical procedures, including abortions.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and seven other expert medical associations have called for hospital systems, surgical facilities, and other community-based health systems to recognize that abortion is an essential, time-sensitive service.
- By denying or delaying care, patients experience an undue burden. No patient should be forced to delay their healthcare due to medically inappropriate state regulations that are politically motivated instead of being based in science.
- Abortion providers are following all Center for Disease Control and National Abortion Federation safety guidelines and taking stringent precautions to keep our patients and staff safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely fall hardest on those struggling to make ends meet, especially women of color, women in low-income communities, and women with children. People who take public transportation will also see their access to reproductive health care suffer as systems operate on reduced schedules.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies are actively promoting telehealth during this crisis, but not for medication abortion. An unnecessary FDA rule that requires providers to dispense abortion medication in person is not being relaxed or lifted, meaning patients will have to visit their providers that may be hundreds of miles away to pick up their prescriptions. Many states also have bans on telemedicine for abortion.
- During this national crisis, our elected officials should be focused on our families’ health and safety. We need more health care, not less.
Linked resources are for informational purposes only and do not indicate an endorsement from or partnership with the National Organization for Women.