COVID-19 impacted access to abortion care all over Europe
Access to abortion care is an important and politically charged topic. It is a human rights issue affecting essential aspects of women's healthcare. As a global disruptive event, COVID-19 affected abortion access in many European countries.
Government policies on abortion are a longstanding topic of heated political debate. The COVID-19 pandemic shook health care systems to the core adding to the complexity of the issue, as the imposed national lockdowns and mobility restrictions affected millions of women's timely access to abortion care across the globe. Researchers from Finland and France examined how all of the European Union countries and the United Kingdom responded to the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 crisis in terms of providing access to abortion care.
"By combining information from various sources, we studied the changes in policies and protocols, and the access difficulties that had been reported. While some countries made efforts to maintain and facilitate women's access to abortion care during the pandemic through the introduction or expansion of telemedicine and early medical abortion, others attempted to further restrict access to abortion," says Dr. Guido Giunti from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Oulu, Finland.
Researchers focused on how telemedicine was used to support women's rights. The study showed that early information provided through telemedicine can make abortion more accessible.
"Our analysis shows significant differences across Europe, with debate sparked around the abortionissue and the emergence of telemedicine to improve access to abortion in some countries.Based on our analysis, we provided a framework that can help policy-makers improve access to abortion care," adds Neva Bojovic from Kedge Business School, France.
The impact of COVID-19 on abortion access: insights from the European Union and the United Kingdom is among the first studies to take a Europe-wide look at how COVID-19 impacted abortion access. The results were published recently in the Health Policy journal. The results present a framework for improved access to abortion care, and can therefore provide a change of course in the existing practices. Crises often lead to increased use of telemedicine.
"Many European countries adjusted their policies and protocols related to abortion access. These adjustments either facilitate access to abortion care or make it more complicated. Further studies could be conducted to see whether the new policies and protocols adopted to facilitate access to abortion care during the pandemic are maintained after the public health crisis is over, and what their long-term impact on abortion care will be," said Jovana Stanisljevic from Grenoble Ecole de Management, France.