We, the undersigned, are medical doctors, public health workers, researchers and feminists concerned with issues of reproductive health, rights and justice.

In the case of Sama vs Union of India and Ors, the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi ruled that the Union of India and Government of NCT Delhi

“…shall work in tandem to make sure that no barriers are faced by pregnant ladies and their family members residing in hot spots during the lockdown.”  
— High Court of Delhi, W.P.(C)2983/2020 & CM APP Nos 10345-46/2020, dated 22/04/2020

While this is a welcome move, we urge that access to safe abortion is specifically recognized and appropriate services extended to women seeking abortion.

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 be postponed. This is for two reasons: first, to prevent exposure of people to Coronavirus in hospitals and second, to reduce the demand on health systems, overwhelmed in the Coronavirus pandemic.

The situation with Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) is however unique, and cannot be classified as a “non-emergency” procedure worthy of postponement.

A woman needing a MTP is in an emergency situation. She cannot afford to wait for the pandemic situation in the country to abate. By then, she might well have passed the time-frame for her to access a safe and legal abortion. Further, one of the key barriers to access abortion services is the transport ban. Unlike childbirth, women needing abortion services need confidentiality, and may not often share their predicament to their family. Therefore, in lieu of face to face consultations, availability of medical abortion drugs in primary level clinics, eg. mohalla clinics, PHCs, dispensaries or e-prescription by obstetricians/doctors, along with access to helpline that provides abortion service guidance should be permitted in containment zones where residents cannot go out of the zone. The government’s recent directive to test full-term pregnant women from these zones coming for delivery adds to the problem. This directive will add an additional layer of gatekeeping that will compromise access further and needs to be revisited.

As it stands, India bears a huge load of illegal abortions. They are estimated to contribute up to 12 per cent of the unconscionably high load of maternal deaths we have in the country.

We know that in Covid times, deaths due to hunger-related causes, starvation, tuberculosis, malaria, etc will increase meteorically, as hunger and unemployment increase. Let us not add to this by denying women abortions or making access even more difficult than it already is.

Jaime Todd -Gher and Payal K.Shah note:

Yet abortion services are more essential now than ever. Preliminary reports indicate that states’ COVID-19 responses may lead to increased unintended and unwanted pregnancies due to quickly diminishing contraceptive supplies, increased incidence of domestic violence, and rising income insecurity. Compelling continuation of unwanted pregnancies is recognised as a human rights violation in several circumstances, including where there are foreseeable physical or mental health impacts for pregnant persons. Further, pregnancy carries heightened risks during crises and COVID-19 may create new barriers to pregnancy-related care ( Todd -Gher and Shah, “ Abortion in the context of Covid-19: A human rights imperative”, Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, forthcoming)

It is possible to provide safe abortions in Covid times, as is being done in several countries such as the UK, Ireland and France.

Covid cannot be used as an excuse to deny women’s right to safe abortion, as the state of Texas has done in the USA.

We urge the government to act forthwith to restore women’s access to services directed at the full gamut of reproductive health and rights, including access to abortion.

Endorsed by:

  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
  79. Dr. Indranil Mukhopadhyay, Associate Professor, Jindal University, Haryana.
  80. Prof. Prajwal Shastri, Astrophysicist, Bangalore.