Hundreds of thousands of women were unable to access abortion services or contraceptive medication during the first half of 2020 because of COVID-19.

Data has been published by Marie Stopes International (MSI), a non-governmental organisation that provides access to reproductive health services around the world.

It has estimated that due to the worldwide lockdown and the loss of the organisation’s services between January and June, there will be 900,000 additional unintended pregnancies, 1.5 million additional unsafe abortions and 3,100 additional pregnancy-related deaths.

Despite the challenges and restrictions that coronavirus imposed, MSI said it worked tirelessly to adapt to help as many women as they could.

Jonathan Lord, Medical Director for Marie Stopes UK said: “Thanks to the introduction of telemedicine, waiting times and gestations have significantly reduced, and the number of safeguarding cases identified has risen by 20%, meaning increased protection for vulnerable women.

“Had this service not been available, the consequences could have been catastrophic, with huge numbers of women and healthcare workers unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19. Some women would also have been forced to resort to illicit sources for abortion care without the safeguarding and aftercare provided by a regulated setting or been forced to continue pregnancies against their will.”

Dr Rashmi Ardey, Director of Clinical Services of a MSI programme in India programme, said: “Women’s needs do not suddenly stop or diminish during an emergency—they become greater. And as doctor I have seen only too often the drastic action that women and girls take when they are unable to access contraception and safe abortion.

“This pandemic has strained healthcare services all over the world, but sexual and reproductive healthcare was already so under prioritised that once again women are bearing the brunt of this global calamity.”

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