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April 13, 2020 – The commentary published in The Lancet highlights the detrimental impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic response on sexual and reproductive health and rights. The piece emphasizes the threat to sexual and reproductive health services caused by policies designating these services as non-essential and diverting resources.

Senior author Terry McGovern, chair of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and co-authors call on the sexual and reproductive health community to be vigilant so as to prevent loss of these services. “Global responses to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic are converging with pervasive, existing sexual and reproductive health and justice inequities to disproportionately impact the health, wellbeing, and economic stability of women, girls, and vulnerable populations,” the authors write.

Highlighting the disproportionate social and economic burden on women, girls, and vulnerable populations exacerbated by the pandemic, the authors argue that “a sexual and reproductive health and justice framework—one that centers human rights, acknowledges intersecting injustices, recognizes power structures, and unites across identities—is essential for monitoring and addressing the inequitable gender, health, and social effects of COVID-19.”

The authors are a multi-disciplinary group of academics and practitioners, including epidemiologists, healthcare workers, lawyers, and community-based organizers with expertise in sexual and reproductive health service provision and access, gender-based violence, global humanitarian response, human rights, disease surveillance, stigma, and the specific needs of women, girls, and vulnerable populations.

“Advocates must continue to fight the exploitation of the COVID-19 crisis to further an agenda that restricts access to essential sexual and reproductive health services, particularly abortion, and targets immigrants and adolescents,” the authors conclude.

Co-authors are Kelli Stidham Hall, Goleen Samari, Samantha Garbers, Sara E. Casey, Rachel T. Moresky, and Micaela Elvira Martinez, of Columbia Mailman School of Public Health; Dazon Dixon Diallo, SisterLove; and Miriam Orcutt, Institute for Global Health, University College London.

Journal article:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30801-1