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Impact of Covid-19 on Abortions in India

Impact of Covid-19 on Abortions in India
- Yashika Goplani, DNLU, Jabalpur

The deadly coronavirus is spreading at a rapid rate all over the world. On 31stJanuary, 2020 World Health Organisation declared it as pandemic. Every country is taking measures which are essential for the welfare of the citizens. In the same way, the Prime Minister of India took some steps to safeguard the population of our country. He declared nation-wide lockdown on 24thMarch, 2020 for 21 days which has been extended further on. This lockdown has impacted a lot of fields and economy but one aspect of this has not come into limelight which is its effect on abortions.

This lockdown has been a difficult time especially for women who were tortured by their husbands, relatives and therefore has been called as “shadow pandemic” by UN Women. Cases of domestic violence have increased at a rapid rate showing the cruelty and forced sexual activities which they have faced. Unwanted pregnancies have also increased, as the hospitals are busy treating patients with coronavirus and private doctors being non-operative due to the fear of the spreading of the virus.


According to a report by the IPAS Development Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to manage unwanted pregnancies in India, gauges that entrance to 1.85 million premature births, i.e., just about 50 percent of the quantity of premature births that would have occurred in this period typically, may have been undermined because of the previously mentioned issues from March to June this year. Ten women die of unsafe abortions in India every day, with almost half the abortions performed in unhygienic conditions by untrained providers, according to India’s health ministry.

A report by Foundation for Reproductive Health Services India estimates that the pandemic situation could lead to an additional 834,042 unsafe abortions and 1,743 maternal deaths. The Guttmacher Institute recently estimated that even a “10% proportional decline in use of contraceptive methods in low-and middle-income countries due to reduced access would result in an additional 49 million women with unmet need for modern contraceptives and an additional 15 million unintended pregnancies over the course of a year”.

The above data reflects the increase in the number of unwanted pregnancies and the chances of maternal deaths. In the starting the lockdown norms were too harsh, because of which women were unable to access the pharmacy and get pregnancy kits. No transport facilities, no private clinics open lead to the transfer of abortions from pills to surgical method with the passage of time.


Abortions were legalised in 1971 in India with the emergence of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. There are different periods and procedures prescribed in it for abortion and some of which have been amended. The amended version was passed a week before lockdown which was a bit liberal. It increased the age of abortion from 20 to 24 but it will favour some “special categories of women”, which include rape survivors, victims of incest, those who are differently-abled and minors.

It establishes that within 20 weeks of pregnancy, the abortion can be done by consulting a single doctor whereas between 20 to 24 weeks it is compulsory to consult 2 doctors. Now here comes the question that in the current scenario where there are no facilities available, how can a woman go and talk to 2 doctors. Although the central government in April declared abortion to be an essential service yet public feared going to hospitals. This might lead to many unwanted babies which will not only increase the population of our country but will also disturb the family planning of couples.

Abortion can happen in 2 ways, the first one in 6 months where abortion pills are required to be taken and the second is surgical abortion. It can be seen that due to the lockdown many abortions which could have otherwise been done through pills will now require surgical operation. Equipment’s, infrastructure and other things required are not readily available. Even the contraceptive pills were not possibly available leading to extra pressure for the women.

One of the faults with the act is that it gives full power to the doctor’s opinion about the termination of pregnancy and there is no autonomy to the women infringing her the Right to Privacy. Even after some of the landmark judgements like Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Admn and Devika Biswas v. Union of India where the Supreme Court has given full autonomy to the women to decide where she wishes to keep the baby or opt for abortion but still there are no amendments in the act for the same.


The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act does not use the word ‘abortion’ rather uses the term ‘termination of pregnancy’ because of which even in today’s world people feel ashamed using it. Sex workers are often treated as untouchables when they come for abortion in the daily working of life but in lockdown it has been a difficult task for them to get aborted. 

Abortion is still considered to be a taboo in our society and since people continue to live with their orthodox mentality they often ill-treat the rape victims, minors, unsound girls who are often the prey of forced sex leading to unwanted pregnancies. But still there are families and other people who disregard the condition of the victims and rather treat her like a culprit. It is high time for our society and government to change its thinking and work for the welfare of the most affected section of our society. We often say that man and woman are equal but when we go deep into consideration, there is a huge bridge which is required to be filled so as to give them equal protection of law.

There is a need to revisit the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act to give autonomy to the women whether she wants to abort or not. The doctors should have a say only about whether aborting is safe or will cause some issue in future to the child or the mother. Society need to accept sex workers as it is their choice to opt for any field and not to discriminate to them in any way.


•Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Admin , (2009) 14 SCR 989
•Devika Biswas v. Union of India, (2016) 10 SCC 726
•Stella Paul, ‘India’s Liberal abortion Law, Nullified by Social Stigma’, <>accessed 12 July,2020
•‘COVID-19 compromised access to 18.5 lakh abortions: Study’, accessed 14 July,2020
•Tarini Mehta, ‘Why COVID-19 Must Not Constrain Access to Abortion in India’, <> accessed 14 July,2020
•Kranti Suresh Vora, ‘Impact of COVID-19 on family planning services in India’, <> accessed 15 July,2020
•Shonottra Kumar, ‘Why India’s law on abortion does not use the word ‘abortion’, <> accessed on 16 July,2020