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Preserving Women’s Bodily Autonomy

The disruption of family-planning services during the pandemic is not just an inconvenience to women around the world. The curtailment of women's fundamental right to reproductive health and choice is a profound cost that will be borne by entire countries.

NEW YORK – By the age of 24, Maya Bohara had borne four children, and she and her husband decided that their family was large enough. For nine years thereafter, despite living in a poor region of Nepal, she could rely on a local health clinic for injectable contraceptives.

But then came COVID-19, which disrupted medical supply chains and health budgets around the world. By June 2020, Maya’s clinic was out of the contraceptive she had been using; and by February 2021, her fifth child was born. Although the Boharas’ new baby is deeply loved, a vulnerable family has now been put in an even more precarious position.

They are hardly alone. For women around the world, one of the most serious costs of the pandemic – beyond the direct toll in lives and livelihoods – has been loss of reproductive choice. These are lifetime costs that might be borne even by generations to come.

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