We all have witnessed how health care facilities and health care professionals around the world have been overburdened and overwhelmed by the Covid-19 pandemic emergency. The situation gets worse when pandemic outbreak waves hit huge numbers in any specific area. The United States, India, Brazil are genuine examples of this.
Pandemics and Abortions
We have also seen the healthcare system and staff prioritizing Covid patients. Everyone around us suggests avoiding visiting hospitals and doctors until it's not a very serious and if it’s only an “essential issue”. Do abortions come under this category? Yes, it certainly does. Abortion is an integral part of sexual health and reproductive health rights and it's a fundamental right.
Medical abortion is proven to be a highly effective and safe way to end a pregnancy using the medications mifepristone and misoprostol in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. Read and understand more about this here.
Self-administration of medical abortion
And when it comes to evaluating whether abortion pills are safe to use privately or not, the most reliable and trusted source across the world WHO-World Health Organization confirms that within 1st-trimester medical abortion can be controlled by a person and may take place at home. So yes, these pills are safe for a person to use privately.
Despite this, in many countries where abortion is legal and have laws surrounding the availability of abortion do not allow ‘self-managed’ abortion which means no abortion without consulting doctors.
It's required for a person to visit and consult a medical facility- a registered doctor and at many places, they are required to swallow the abortion pill in the presence of medical staff. For instance, following MTP act in India for terminating a pregnancy through medical abortion requires permission from a registered doctor up to 12 weeks. This means you cannot purchase abortion pills over the counter or online without a valid prescription from a registered doctor.
In this emergency of a pandemic, access to doctors for seeking an abortion becomes very challenging for women around the world. The stigma and prejudice attached to abortion make the situation even more difficult for them. Taking the risk of reaching out to a medical facility, negotiating with them to consider this as essential over covid patients, convincing their partners, family members all these obstacles sometimes lead to delaying the legal threshold of the viability of terminating a pregnancy using medication. This might also result in pursuing unsafe and dangerous alternatives ways of abortion.
And, no doubt stepping out during a pandemic increases the chances of getting covid. And we can’t ignore the fact that many families are going through economic struggles during this time which means bearing the expenses of medical facilities for abortion can become an extra burden for them.
Abortion pills and debunking myths
Meanwhile, there have been some very progressive and needed revised abortion regulations that were made very recently in some countries that are debunking myths around abortions.
Recently, in France, the maximum delay for taking medical abortion at home has been extended from seven to nine weeks. Ireland revised their abortion law by authorizing remote consultations for medical abortion through telemedicine. England has approved the self-administration of medical abortion pills. This means an abortion can be self-managed at home using abortion pills. Source:
These policy revisions are debunking a huge myth that self-managed abortions are unsafe. It's also highlighting that abortion is an essential component that can not be ignored during this coronavirus emergency.
This step not only reduces the burden on health systems but also supports the due rights of accessing safe and self-managed abortion using the abortion pill.
Bio: Kiran is a student of social work and comes with an experience of 8 years in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) issues.