Wins and losses in reproductive health


The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) predicts that the COVID-19 pandemic will erase more than 20 years of progress on women’s health and reproductive health access. Hesperian and our partners are working to prevent that.

The political and social win in Argentina, which fully legalized abortion in December, reverberated across the region in both good and bad ways. From Ecuador legalizing abortion in cases of rape (a small, but powerful win for women’s health) to Honduras trying to make illegal in perpetuity any legislative discussion or vote to legalize abortion. The COVID crisis has laid bare the importance of access to sexual and reproductive health information and services and the real danger of letting religious or political agendas get in the way of protecting women’s health.

In a recent webinar with women’s health and rights activists who won legalization in Argentina, they shared with legislators the number of people receiving medical treatment for obstetric emergencies caused by unsafe abortions, and the number of them dying from complications. These numbers were staggeringly high, but so underreported outside of the health system that they were easy for legislators to dismiss. This was the tipping point as it should be for any government: Lack of abortion and post-abortion care results in injury and death.

As most sexual and reproductive health services went digital during the pandemic, Hesperian became an important component of digital support for people seeking abortions. Many of our partners throughout the Americas — and in the US as well — used our Safe Abortion App and our Family Planning App to share information with their clients. The surge of energy around digital resources also gave us the opportunity to partner with organizations such as Ipas, safe2choose, Find My Method and other regional and global partners to bring awareness to digital tools, including our apps.

As COVID-19 recedes, due to vaccine inequality much slower than we and our partners would desire, Hesperian’s sexual and reproductive health apps continue to be essential to ensuring everyone gets the information and services they need.