Medical Termination of Pregnancy during the Covid pandemic – Statement by concerned citizens

Statement by medical doctors, public health workers, researchers and feminists concerned with issues of reproductive health, rights and justice.

In the case of Sama vs Union of India and Ors, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi ruled that the Union of India and Government of NCT Delhi

 …shall work in tandem to make sure that no barriers are faced by pregnant ladies and their family members residing in hot spots during the lockdown.”  (High Court of Delhi, W.P.(C)2983/2020 & CM APP Nos 10345-46/2020, dated 22/04/2020)

While this is a welcome move, we urge that access to safe abortion is specifically recognized and appropriate services extended to women seeking abortion.

 It is completely understandable, and correct, that all non-emergency procedures be suspended at hospitals in these times of Covid-19.  Thus, not only elective plastic surgery procedures, but surgeries such as that for inguinal hernia, or thyroid adenomas, have to be postponed. This is for two reasons: first, to prevent exposure of people to Coronavirus in hospitals and second, to reduce the demand on health systems, overwhelmed in the Coronavirus pandemic.

The situation with Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) is however unique, and cannot be classified as a “non-emergency” procedure worthy of postponement.

A woman needing a MTP is in an emergency situation. She cannot afford to wait for the pandemic situation in the country to abate. By then, she might well have passed the time-frame for her to access a safe and legal abortion. Further, one of the key barriers to access abortion services is the transport ban. Unlike childbirth, women needing abortion services need confidentiality, and may not often share their predicament to their family. Therefore, in lieu of face to face consultations, availability of medical abortion drugs in primary level clinics, eg. mohalla clinics, PHCs,dispensaries or e-prescription of by obstetricians / doctors, along with acces to helpline that provides abortion service guidance   should be permitted in containment zones where residents cannot go out of the zone. The government’s recent directive to test full term pregnant women from these zones coming for delivery adds to the problem. This directive will add an additional layer of gatekeeping that will compromise access further and needs to be revisited.

As it stands, India bears a huge load of illegal abortions. They are estimated to contribute up to 12 per cent of the unconscionably high load of maternal deaths we have in the country.

We know that in Covid times, deaths due to hunger-related causes, starvations, tuberculosis, malaria, etc will increase meteorically, as hunger and unemployment increase. Let us not add to this by denying women abortions or making access even more difficult than it already is.

Jaime Todd -Gher and Payal K.Shah note:

Yet abortion services are more essential now than ever. Preliminary reports indicate that states’ COVID-19 responses may lead to increased unintended and unwanted pregnancies due to quickly diminishing contraceptive supplies, increased incidence of domestic violence, and rising income insecurity. Compelling continuation of unwanted pregnancies is recognised as a human rights violation in several circumstances, including where there are foreseeable physical or mental health impacts for pregnant persons. Further, pregnancy carries heightened risks during crises and COVID-19 may create new barriers to pregnancy-related care ( Todd -Gher and Shah, “ Abortion in the context of Covid-19: A human rights imperative”, Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, forthcoming)

It is possible to provide safe abortions in Covid times, as is being done in several countries such as the UK, Ireland and France.

Covid cannot be used as an excuse to deny women’s right to safe abortion, as the state of Texas has done in the USA.

We urge the government to act forthwith to restore women’s access to services directed at the full gamut of reproductive health and rights, including access to abortion.

Endorsed by:

Sl No. Name Affiliation
1 Dr.Mohan Rao Former professor, JNU

 

2 Laxmi Murthy Feminist journalist, Bangalore.
3 Dr. Imrana Qadeer Former professor, JNU
4 Urvashi Butalia

 

Feminist publisher, Zubaan, New Delhi.
5 Prof. Nivedita Menon Professor, JNU

 

6 Prof. Ayesha Kidwai Professor, JNU
7 Prof. Priyamvada Gopal Professor, University of Cambridge
8 Dr.Vineeta Bal Former scientist, NII
9 AIDWA National Women’s Organisation
10 Renu Khanna Commonhealth, Baroda
11 Dr.Vandana Prasad Community paediatrician, New Delhi.

 

12 Dr.Rohini Kandhari Public health researcher, New Delhi
13 Dr.Priya Ranjan I.P.College, Delhi University
14 Dr.Aprajita Sarcar Assistant Professor , University of Ontario, Canada
15 Sunita VS Bandewar Health, Ethics and Law Institute, Pune
16 Prof.Ramila Bisht Professor, JNU
17 Dr.R.Srivats Political scientist, Hyderabad
18 Prof.Pam Rajput Women’s studies scholar, Chandigarh.
19 Dr Subha Shri Obstetrician and gynaecologist, Thiruvananthapuram
20 Shalini Rudra Researcher, Warwick University, UK
21 Dr. Raman Kutty Former Director,  Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies, Thiruvananthapuram
22 Deepika Joshi Public Health Researcher, Chhattisgarh
23 Sarojini N. SAMA Resource Group for Women and Health, New Delhi.
24 Dr.Veena Shatrugna Former Deputy Director,
National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad.
25 Dr Mira Shiva Public Health Physician, New Delhi.
26 Dr. Charm Shakeel Public Health Physician, Bihar
27 Dr. Suhas Kolhekar National Alliance of People’s Movements, Pune
28 Dr. Narendra Gupta Public health physician, Prayas, Rajasthan
29 Dr. Peehu Pardeshi Assistant Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences , Mumbai.
30 Prof. Jayati Ghosh Prof. JNU
31 Dr. Anant Phadke Public health researcher, CEHAT, Pune
     
32 CommonHealth (Coalition for Reproductive Health and Safe Abortion)
33 Kalyani Menon Sen Feminist Learning Partnerships
34 Dr. Sunita Reddy Associate Professor, JNU
35 SAHELI, New Delhi
36 Dr.Nachiket Udupa Public Health Researcher
37 Dr. Y.K.Sandhya Health Watch Forum, Uttar Pradesh
38 National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights (NAMHHR)

 

39 S.Srinivasan

 

Locost,  Vadodara

 

40 Dr. Saraswathy Ganapathy Community Paediatrician, Bangalore
41 Dr.Manisha Gupte MASUM, Pune
42 Ammu Joseph Feminist journalist, Bangalore
43 Dr. Sunil Kaul Community Health Physician, The Ant, Assam
44 Prof. Mary E. John

 

Senior Fellow,
Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS), New Delhi
45 Prof. Ania Loomba University of Philadelphia, USA.
46 Prof. Pratikasha Baxi Professor, JNU
47 Prof. G.Arunima Professor, JNU
48 Amar Jesani Independent Researcher and Teacher (Bioethics, Public Health)
49 Jennifer Liang Public Health Researcher, The Ant, Assam
50 Dr. Nidhin Joseph Public Health Physician
51 Dr. Rajalakshmi RamPrakash

 

 

Health Researcher, Chennai.
52 Dr Shaweta Anand Public Health Activist, New Delhi

 

53 Prof. Angelie Multani Professor, IIT  New Delhi
54 Deepa V Health Activist, New Delhi
55 Prof.Farida Abdulla Khan Former Professor, Jamia Milia Islamia
56 Prof. Rama Baru

 

Professor, JNU
57 Prof. Ravinder Kaur Professor, IIT New Delhi
58 Prof.Rajni Palriwala Professor, Delhi University
59 Pamela Philippose Journalist, New Delhi
60 Prof.Janaki Nair Professor, JNU
61 Indu Chandrasekhar Publisher, Tulika Books, New Delhi
62 Prof. Chirashree Das Gupta Professor, JNU
63 Rajashri Dasgupta Feminist Journalist
64 Krishna Choudhary Public Health Scholar , JNU
65 Ravi Duggal Independent Public Health Researcher and Activist,  Mumbai
66 Dr. Sulakshana Nandi Public Health Researcher, Chhattisgarh
67 Radha Holla Bhar Public Health Nutritionist
68 Dr. Mala Khullar Co-editor, Asian Journal of Women’s Studies
69 Prof. Patricia Uberoi Formerly of Delhi University
70 Prof. Uma Chakravarti Formerly of Delhi University
71 Prof. Sundari Ravindran Former professor, Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies, Thiruvananthapuram
72 Jashodhara Dasgupta Public Health Researcher, New Delhi
73 Prof. Devaki Jain Feminist Economist , New Delhi
74 All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA)

 

75 Kamayani Bali Mahabal Jan Swasthaya Abhiyan, Mumbai
76 Dr. P.M Arathi Assistant Professor, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala.
77 Dr. Smitha S Nair Assailant Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
78 Amitabha Sarkar French Institute of Pondicherry

 

 

2 thoughts on “Medical Termination of Pregnancy during the Covid pandemic – Statement by concerned citizens”

  1. An extremely important initiative. I hope it relates to the entire country and not just to Delhi. Whom is the statement addressed to?

    1. Alaka, this is of course related to the entire country. I circulated the statement on MFC and JSA, but I suspect my mail got lost in all the Covid mails we are getting. Two people from Kolkata wrote today saying they had missed my mail and wanted their names included. This statement is directed to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and to the general public too. This is what is called “collateral damage” in the “war on Covid”. When health workers start using military metaphors, you know something is seriously wrong. May I add your name to the list? Mohan

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