A recent study conducted by Ipas Development Foundation (IDF) revealed that access to around 1.85 million abortions was compromised due to the restrictions imposed in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Abortion access for these 1.85 million women was compromised at all points of care, including public and private sector facilities and chemist outlets.

Mr. Vinoj Manning, CEO, Ipas Development Foundation said, “As Covid-19 turned into a pandemic, everyone’s complete attention and effort went to the containment of the virus, which quite naturally pushed a lot of health conditions and their management, including safe abortion, to the backseat.

He added: “Majority of public health facilities and their staff are now focused on Covid-19 treatments and closures of private health facilities have compromised the access to safe abortions, which is a time-sensitive procedure. The study was conducted to get a clearer picture of how COVID-19 restrictions have affected women seeking safe abortion services and what are the areas that will need focused efforts in the days to come.”

The study assessed the near-term impact of Covid-19 on abortion access in India in the first three months following the commencement of the lockdown (25 March 2020 to 24 June 2020).

The model of the study strives to quantify the reduced access to abortions across three different points of care –public health facilities, private health facilities, and chemist outlets.

Speaking on the methodology, Dr. Sushanta Kumar Banerjee from Ipas Development Foundation said, “We conducted telephonic surveys and consulted with several experts from FOGSI leadership and social marketing organizations like PSI India Private Limited. After careful analysis of the data received from them, we have concluded that of the 3.9 million abortions that would have taken place in 3 months, access to around 1.85 million was compromised due to Covid-19 restrictions.”

The study estimates that access to abortion was highly compromised during lockdown 1 and 2 (March 25 – May 3, 2020) in which around 59 per cent of women seeking an abortion could not access the services.

However, the situation is expected to improve in phase 5 of the lockdown with limited restriction that began on June 1– with 33 per cent abortions being compromised in 24 days.

Ipas Development Foundation mentioned that to facilitate the process it has issued some initial recommendations which include: Rapid mapping of facilities for first and second trimester abortions, assessing facilities’ preparedness especially for second-trimester abortions, improving referral linkage and spread the word about the availability of the service, streamlining the supply chain for Medical Abortion drugs, and lastly including mechanisms to offset additional travel and out of pocket expenditures.

Vinoj further added, “The most important take away of the study is not just the fact that 1.85 million women and girls who needed an abortion couldn't get it in the last three months. What is even more important is the need for a specially designed and integrated recovery plan for improving abortion services at facilities. Many of these 1.85 million women will be coming into public and private hospitals seeking second-trimester abortions and we should not be turning them away a second time.”