New Delhi: A group of 78 medical doctors, public health workers, academics and feminists have signed a statement expressing concern over women’s ability to access facilities that can provide for safe abortions amidst the suspension of non-emergency procedures as the country’s hospitals deal with COVID-19.
The signatories, while appreciating the recent Delhi high court direction to ensure that no pregnant women and their families residing in coronavirus hotspots face difficulty in accessing treatment, have urged that the same access be extended to women seeking medical termination of pregnancies.
They have also said that abortions cannot be considered non-emergency medical procedures.
“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 been postponed.
This is for two reasons: first, not to expose people to coronavirus in hospitals and second, to reduce the demand on health systems, breaking under the coronavirus pandemic.
The situation with Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) is however unique, and is not be classified as a “non-emergency” procedure worthy of postponement.”
A woman wanting an MTP is in an emergency situation, write the signatories. The time-frame for her to access a safe and legal abortion in the country is limited and thus, she cannot wait for the pandemic to abate.
The statement also draws attention to the illegal abortions that account for 12% of maternal deaths in the country. In addition to hunger deaths, tuberculosis and malaria, which are at risk of increasing – according to the signatories – denying abortions to women will further add to the toll.
The statement cites the example of the United Kingdom, Ireland and France, which have made it possible for women to access safe abortion during what has otherwise been an escalating medical emergency.
“COVID-19 cannot be used as an excuse to deny women’s rights to safe abortion, as the state of Texas has done in the USA,” the statement notes.
It has since been reported by Reuters that Texas will allow abortions to resume following a legal battle over whether the Republican-governed state could enact a near-total ban on the procedure to preserve supplies of personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.
The full list of signatories to the letter is below:
|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)
|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|