Access to Abortion Services among Urban Poor Women during COVID-19 Pandemic Induced Lockdown: Evidence from Agra, India

Siddharth Agarwal, Urban Health Resource Center
Mayaram Sharma, Urban Health Resource Centre
C B Sharma, Urban Health Resource Centre
Kanupriya Kothiwal, Urban Health Resource Centre (UHRC)

COVID-19 induced lockdown severely affected FP and abortion services. We interviewed 20 married women who underwent abortion during COVID-19 lockdown to understand their challenges and coping mechanisms adopted. Key informant interviews were conducted with 10 frontline health workers and private nurses in Agra, India. Findings suggested that many women relied on consuming “abortion pills” which induce medical abortion as this method provided higher level of secrecy. This resulted in several complications such as excessive bleeding and weakness particularly harmful to already undernourished slum women. With Government hospitals serving only COVID-19 patients, many women sought services of trained private nurses living near their slum. Some borrowed money to avail service at private hospital. Some also had to seek services of untrained local attendants (dais) as a desperation measure to abort the foetus. Pre-existing undernutrition and anemia owing to food insecurity also contributed to complications especially involving blood-loss. Our study concluded that co-opting private nurses by training them in safe abortion practices can ensure secure caret during pandemic or similar situations. Government health system should set up emergency (e.g., mobile clinic) MCH services for ongoing pandemic, future epidemic, disaster. Rapid distribution of contraceptives among women during pandemic/disaster can prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Keywords: COVID-19, Family planning and contraception, Urbanization and urban populations, Qualitative data/methods/approaches

See extended abstract.

  Presented in Session 188. Impact of Covid-19 on Contraceptive Behaviour