COVID-19 Halts Reproductive Care for Millions of Women | Global Health | JAMA | JAMA Network
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Global Health
October 20, 2020

COVID-19 Halts Reproductive Care for Millions of Women

JAMA. 2020;324(15):1489. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.19025

Since coronavirus disease 2019 ushered in lockdowns and limited movement, London-based Marie Stopes International reported that roughly 2 million fewer women have received reproductive care services through its programs in 37 countries. The result could be 1.5 million additional unsafe abortions, 900 000 unintended pregnancies, and 3100 additional deaths, according to the nonprofit organization that provides contraception and safe abortion.

Contraceptives are delivered to women in some countries during the ongoing pandemic.

Michael Duff/Marie Stopes International

In a recent update, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) also warned that responses to the pandemic—clinic closures, supply chain delays, or travel restrictions—have curtailed women’s sexual and reproductive health services. In response, MSF has worked with governments around the world to ensure that reproductive services are deemed essential and remain open. However, Manisha Kumar, MD, MPH, coordinator of the MSF Task Force for Safe Abortion Care, said during an August press briefing that many organizations have had to provide care in ways that don’t require women to travel to brick-and-mortar facilities.

Expanding access to self-care or community-based models of care, is an approach that MSF supports. For example, in the United Kingdom Marie Stopes has worked with partners since April to provide telehealth care to 7000 women taking medical abortion drugs at home. In Zimbabwe, the organization has integrated family planning and contraception services into local immunization programs; in other countries they’ve delivered contraceptives, Banchiamlack Dessalegn, PhD, MA, regional director for East and Southern Africa at Marie Stopes, said during the MSF briefing.

Kumar said she hopes such innovative approaches will lead to lasting change and expanded access to reproductive care. “We have a really unique opportunity to completely revolutionize our approach to sexual and reproductive health services,” she added.