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Lockdown Prevented 1.85 Million Indian Women From Accessing An Abortion

. 3 min read . Written by Kanksha Raina
Lockdown Prevented 1.85 Million Indian Women From Accessing An Abortion

A modelling study conducted by the Ipas Development Foundation showed that 47% of the estimated abortions in the span of 3 months were most likely compromised.

In yet another glaring example of the gendered impact of COVID-19, a recent modelling study conducted by the Ipas Development Foundation showed that out of the estimated 3.9 million abortions that would have likely taken place between March and June under normal circumstances, about 1.85 million women could not get abortions. More grim is that out of these 1.85 million women, 80% of women couldn’t get abortions due to the lack of availability of medical abortion drugs at pharmacy stores. 

This lack of access to contraception will most likely prove to be dangerous, as women will either be forced to carry out an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy, or may end up getting an unsafe or late-term abortion. 

Women: An afterthought?

The lockdown affected women’s access to abortion in many ways. For one, several hospitals and healthcare centres were converted into COVID-19 centres, which limited women’s access to it. Aside from that, problems like lack of time and PPE equipment to deal with pregnant women; the limited services provided by private healthcare facilities; the general lack of mandatory COVID testing kits; disruptions in supply chains for stocking up on contraceptives; and the suspension of public transport facilities also contributed to the lack of access. 

Other reasons include the temporary suspension of the provision of sterilisation and IUCDs, adhering to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s advisory till mid-May, the disruption of community-level distribution of contraceptives, and the general fear of going out due to the virus.

Unsafe abortions are the third largest cause of deaths in India.

While there are only anecdotal reports of women having undergone unsafe abortions during the lockdown, it cannot be stressed enough that women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services should be considered an essential service. While in April, the government declared abortions an essential service, the several roadblocks that came in the way were big enough to prevent women from accessing them.

Lockdown Prevented 1.85 Million Indian Women From Accessing An Abortion

The cost and the solution: Include women in disaster management programmes

With an increase in demand for abortions post lockdown, the costs are likely to go up – especially for second-trimester abortions. From admission fees to mandatory COVID testing to transport expenditure, the increase in cost can affect women across socio-economic strata. 

What’s the solution to this? Including women’s problems in management programmes designed to handle the COVID-19 crisis.

The study gives insightful suggestions. Recognizing private and public healthcare facilities that can continue to provide abortions and preparing them to handle the increased demand is an important step. It is also essential to continue the supply of contraceptives and abortion drugs with minimal hiccups. Providing women with the latest information regarding services and facilities can also prove to be beneficial for women seeking abortions. The programmes must also get with the times and consider providing telemedicine wherever feasible, and mobile clinics should be made available.

The COVID-19 lockdown has been unkind to women in many ways – rising cases of domestic violence, being overburdened with domestic labour, loss of jobs and pay – the lack of access to abortions is another violation. It is important for the government to include sexual and reproductive healthcare in its plan to improve the state of our country post lockdown, because women’s health cannot and should not be put on the back-burner.

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