Last month, the WHO promulgated a set of guidelines to help countries maintain healthcare during the lockdown. Medical guidelines issued by the organization last month involved “reproductive health services including care during pregnancy and childbirth”. It is since then that The World Health Organization is being urged to declare abortion an essential health service during the coronavirus pandemic as the organization did not explicitly mention abortion WHO in these guidelines, raising concerns about the lack of access engendering unwanted pregnancies and, thereupon, unsafe and potentially fatal abortions.
In conversation with the media last week, the WHO clarified their stand, deeming abortion an essential healthcare service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation, the WHO said that “services related to reproductive health are considered to be part of essential services during the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes contraception, quality health care during and after pregnancy and childbirth, and safe abortion to the full extent of the law”. The specialised agency further asserted that women’s choices and rights to sexual and reproductive health care should be respected, irrespective of whether or not she has a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection.
As countries go into lockdown WHO and mobility is reduced, women with unwanted pregnancies will have to wait longer and could surpass the gestational period within which a woman can legally get an abortion. Over the passage of time, the procedure becomes more complex and the risks at a later stage pregnancy can pose a pernicious threat to the patient’s life.
In the US, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed emergency lawsuits against five states after they declared abortions non-essential and banned these procedures to preserve PPE for fighting coronavirus. In a joint statement, 100 NGOs implored European states to find new ways to help women access services during the lockdown as the UK introduced last month, by allowing them to take abortion pills at home.
As stated by THE WEEK, in India as well, WHO medical professionals and NGOs are worried about the declined availability of condoms and oral contraceptives coupled with reduced access to abortion services, which are leaving women to resort to vulnerable methods of terminating pregnancies.
“We think the collateral damage of the epidemic is higher than the damage caused by the epidemic itself,” Séverine Caluwaerts, a gynecologist at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Belgium, had articulated about the sparsity of reproductive healthcare during the Ebola outbreak.
There have been 1,997,666 cases of the coronavirus worldwide as of Tuesday, and 126,597 people have died from the virus.