The world feels very different today than it did a few months ago. The Covid-19 pandemic will be this century’s global health challenge and it is stretching healthcare systems around the world to a breaking point.
As a result, many women are finding it difficult to access safe abortions. Travel bans, social distancing, nationwide lockdowns, pay cuts and job loss, and shortage of medicines have added to the challenge and made it harder than ever to access quality sexual and reproductive services. But the truth of the matter is - Abortion is an essential healthcare service.
Reports highlight that the COVID-19 pandemic has lead to an increase in unintended pregnancies because of to shrinking contraceptive supplies, a surge in domestic violence, and rising income insecurity.
It’s in these challenging times that we ought to seek the support of policy makers to promote abortion care as an essential health service. This could possibly lay a foundation of strengthening our SRHR infrastructure for the future.
To further support this argument, here are three reasons why access to safe and quality abortion care is necessary, especially during a pandemic -
ABORTION SAVES LIVES
In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) said 68,000 women die every year from complications tied to unsafe abortions, and called this a “preventable pandemic.”
Studies have shown that when there are challenges in accessing safe abortions, maternal mortality rates increase.
Marie Stopes International has warned that COVID-19 could have a devastating impact on maternal health. In their response to the pandemic, MSI has clearly stated that that across the 37 countries where it works, the COVID-19 crisis could potentially lead to an increase of 3 million unintended pregnancies, 2.7 million more unsafe abortions, and an additional 11,000 pregnancy-related deaths.
ABORTION IS TIME-SENSITIVE
The time- sensitive nature of an abortion procedure is a crucial element of women’s health care and must be maintained even where non-urgent and elective services are suspended. Delay in this matter adds additional strain on healthcare services during a vulnerable time like a pandemic.
Mortality and morbidity with safe abortion is lower than continuing a pregnancy to term. Risks increase exponentially for each additional week of pregnancy after 11 weeks of gestation.
ABORTION POSITIVE POLICIES SUPPORTS A HEALTHY ECONOMY
Health isn’t the only factor that gets jeopardised when abortion is restricted.
If women aren’t giving the choice to decide for themselves and what’s right for their body, they are often unable to gain an education and career, therefore struggling to support a large family. Safe abortion options empower us to make decisions about our future and how we wish to shape it. And the choice to decide for yourself drives social and economic development which will help reduce burden on the healthcare systems, during a pandemic and beyond it.
Sneha Nair is a reproductive rights advocate, the Global Communications officer at howtouseabortionpill.org and lives in Mumbai with her three plants.