COVID-19: Doctors, Public Health Workers Urge Govt to Ensure Women Can Access Safe Abortions

'Medical termination of pregnancy... cannot be classified as a 'non-emergency' procedure worthy of postponement,' they write.

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.

Also read: Kashmir: In Labour, Woman From ‘Red Zone’ Turned Away From 4 Hospitals

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.

Also read: The New Pregnancy Termination Bill Still Ignores Women’s Agency Completely

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:

Sl No. Name Affiliation 
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)


39 S.Srinivasan  Locost,  Vadodara 
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