Right now, all over the world, our teams are seeing women and girls cut off from the essential health services they need due to the devastating secondary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic—including closures of health facilities, cuts in services, and supply shortages. Contraception and safe abortion care are rarely recognized as essential, even though they help prevent one of the biggest causes of maternal mortality: unsafe abortion. Every day, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams treat women and girls who've had to resort to unsafe methods to terminate pregnancy because they had no access to proper care.
"During these extraordinary times, it's even more critical that women and girls have access to the health services that they need," says Dr. Manisha Kumar, head of MSF's task force for safe abortion care. Our teams around the world are working hard to keep essential programs for women and girls running. "In some places, this means giving women longer refills of their birth control pills to avoid unnecessary visits to the clinic. And in other places, this means working with community health workers and local women's groups to provide abortion medications in the community," says Dr. Kumar. Governments, health systems, and providers must ensure that these services remain open and accessible to women and girls. Contraception and safe abortion care are essential health care, during COVID-19 and always.