Africa: Expert Views - How Coronavirus Is Affecting Abortion Access

What experts from sexual health organisations and rights groups are saying about how COVID-19 is affecting sexual healthcare - and what should be done about it

Women from Nepal to the United States are struggling to get abortions during the COVID-19 outbreak as lockdowns and medical shortages create barriers to care.

Sexual health organisations and women's rights groups have called on authorities to recognise access to abortion as a human right that must be protected during the pandemic.

Here is what some of them are saying about how the virus is affecting sexual healthcare and what should be done about it:

JACQUI HUNT, EUROPE DIRECTOR, EQUALITY NOW:

"The COVID-19 pandemic is significantly impacting on women's rights and is exacerbating many of the structural inequalities that already exist within societies across the world.

"It is vital that governments include reproductive healthcare, including access to contraception and safe abortion, on the list of essential services so that women and girls are able to receive sexual and reproductive health support and family planning to prevent unwanted pregnancies."

SIMON COOKE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, MARIE STOPES INTERNATIONAL:

"Abortion is an essential and time-sensitive procedure, and delays caused by social distancing, healthcare shutdowns and travel restrictions will have a profound impact.

"But if governments are willing to work with providers there are simple, effective and proven steps that could save thousands of lives."

MANUELLE HURWITZ, DIRECTOR OF INSTITUTIONAL DELIVERY, INTERNATIONAL PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION:

"In countries where safe abortion care is not available or is heavily regulated, we can certainly foresee this is going to lead to unsafe abortion.

"This is why it is really important to call on governments to relax their policies and procedures for access to safe abortion care ... and really minimise the impact this has on women."

REBECCA GOMPERTS, FOUNDER, WOMEN ON WEB:

"The impact on access to abortion has been tremendous.

"We are talking here about a time-sensitive, urgent medical treatment that people need. Anywhere in the world where people required to go to see clinics or doctors in order to access an abortion these women are hindered."

ZARA AHMED, SENIOR POLICY MANAGER, GUTTMACHER INSTITUTE:

"The global pandemic of coronavirus is really highlighting the unique vulnerabilities and challenges facing women and girls around the world.

"We know that without swift access to break down these barriers and to expand access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health and rights services needed, women and girls will suffer disproportionately from the epidemic and not just in the immediate term but for decades to come."

(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, and covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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