Our theme for International Safe Abortion Day, 28 September 2020 is “Self-Managed Abortion”.
We call on all countries to set aside laws and policies that are restricting access to safe abortion, and allow telemedicine and self-managed abortion in line with World Health Organization guidance.
We call on all States to acknowledge that abortion is essential health care, respect, protect and fulfil women’s reproductive rights, support women’s autonomy over their own lives, and ensure universal access to safe abortion – both during Covid-19 and afterwards.
Please join us on and in the lead up to 28 September by using the hashtag #IManageMyAbortion. Social media visuals and a campaigning toolkit are available for download here.
The devastating impacts of Covid-19 have thrown into sharp relief the need of all women in all countries for access to safe abortion, and underlined the fact that abortion is essential health care.
During the pandemic, some countries have temporarily had to restrict access to safe abortion and many other health services to manage the pandemic, affecting the poorest and most marginalised worst. But abortions cannot be put off and calls to reinstate the services have emerged around the world.
National lockdowns for good public health reasons have involved self-isolation, quarantine, travel bans and closed borders. These have made physical access to all health services challenging and sometimes impossible. Health-seeking behaviour has also been affected. Many people are afraid to leave their homes when pathways to care are uncertain, complex and time-consuming.
Transportation is also a big issue, as many women depend on public transport to reach health care facilities.
But new ways to access care have emerged, such as using telemedicine for consultations and allowing pharmacists to provide medications, but they need approval and support.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated discussions and calls for self-managed abortion and telemedicine. Telemedicine is a safe way to arrange an abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy without having to visit a clinic – vital for those who are self-isolating, as much as for women living in remote communities, or whose childcare responsibilities mean they cannot leave the house. It is also being adopted for a rapidly expanding list of clinical consultations with delivery of medications through the post or local pharmacies.
Telemedicine can help to make positive changes in seeking and having an abortion a reality.
This year’s International Safe Abortion Day is about challenging the barriers in health systems and in the minds of policymakers and providers. It’s about creating awareness of:
- how to arrange abortions virtually with a GP, nurse, midwife, pharmacist or community health worker
- when self-managed abortion is safe, how it works, and how to abort safely at home (up to 12 weeks of pregnancy LMP),
- what the alternatives are – either abortion with pills at home or (manual) vacuum aspiration in an outpatient clinic with minimal provider-patient contact, while ensuring later abortions (that need more time and skills) are available too.
We chose the theme of “self-managed abortion” because it is pushing the envelope. It is announcing that abortion methods have changed completely since the days of our mothers and grandmothers, when many of the current laws were framed, which are based on out-of-date messages. It’s time to leave them in the past.
28 September is the major annual day of action in support of the right to safe abortion. You can read more about the history of 28 September here.