Managing Abortions during COVID19 in Philippines- Experience of a service provider
M began her experience in harm-reduction counseling after attending a training about it in the early 2000s. Since then, she has been helping women who seek for her advice. On December 2018, she became part of a group that provides safe abortion services in the Philippines. M mostly provides harm-reduction of unsafe abortion services to women. She provides the information that woman needs and directs them to reliable sources of medical abortion pills. The most challenging part of her role is during the time when the woman is taking the pills. She continuously follows-up all her clients who are undergoing medical abortion and even after the procedure has been done. She monitors them every day and even at night, just to ensure that no complications were encountered by the women. After a harm-reduction counseling, she offers family planning counseling to the women.
As the cases of COVID-19 infection in the Philippines started in the early months of 2020, a number of women also began seeking for safe abortion information and services in the country. She has been receiving a huge volume of inquiries on access to safe abortion services. However, due to restricted movement posed by the lockdown which began on March 2020, she was faced with difficulty of further reaching out to the needs of the clients; her main form of helping the women was through counseling and monitoring through phone calls and texts. The restriction of movement resulted for her to be limited with what service she can provide for the clients. Primarily, restriction of movement hindered women to personally speak with her for counseling, and possibly for a medical or surgical abortion.
She also had to handle suicidal clients who really needed safe abortion but were unable to further seek help due to inaccessibility of transportation and difficulty when it comes to finances.
COVID19 pandemic and its resulting movement restrictions not only hindered women to access various sexual and reproductive health services which includes access to information of and service for a safe abortion, but also restricted service providers like her to go through lengths just to help the women in need.