Delhi, January 24, 2022: Foundation for Reproductive Health Services (FRHS) India hosted a national consultation meeting cum workshop on ‘Changing landscape of contraception and safe abortion services in India’ on 21st January 2022, with the objective to bring together like-minded experts to deliberate on the topic of safe abortion services in India as well issues related to need and access of sexual and reproductive health services to adolescents and youth. The workshop saw lively and enriching discussions amongst the experts leading to concrete recommendations for evidence-based policy change.
At the outset, Mr. Ashutosh Kaushik, Interim CEO, FRHS India welcomed all the eminent guests and spoke “Release of NFHS 5 gave us much to cheer about, as our collective efforts in improving family planning services in India by supporting the government in bridging the accessibility gap, could be seen from the improvement in the indicators. Now, we all need to take another step towards improving accessibility by catering to the needs of the other half of the growing population i.e. the youth. We need to shift the focus from family planning programme to a more universal contraceptive programme, bring in youth in the conversation and shift the needle from control to choice.”
He further added, “The recent amendments in the MTP Act is a historic step in the right direction and to bring them from paper to practice, I believe a robust implementation plan and standardized protocols are key to ensure that policy amendments do not impede access to safe abortions in any way, rather strengthens the position of the intended beneficiary.”
The meeting was facilitated and moderated by Ms. Debanjana Choudhuri who is a gender and climate expert. She is vocal about sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and energy access issues. Commenting on the workshop, she said, “The workshop was attended by prominent speakers who brought to light the key issues related to awareness and access to SRHR services for all. The speakers also deliberated on possible solutions to address emerging challenges. It is important to understand and comprehend all these issues to come up with measures that can really make a difference. The subject needs to be dealt with a sense of urgency and in a much more nuanced manner. Moreover, while the MTP Act was recently amended after 50 years, several gaps continue to exist and need to be mitigated. What’s required is a rights-based approach led by evidence to take informed policy decision that help the beneficiaries in the real sense.
The workshop had two special sessions by Mr. Vinoj Manning, CEO, Ipas Development Foundation on “Safe Abortion services in India: What happens after the amendment?” and Dr. Sharad Iyengar, Chief Executive, Action Research and Training for Health on “Addressing the deprived: Need and access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services to adolescents and youth”. A panel discussion was also hosted on need for universal SRH programme. The panel included a viable mix of eminent speakers including Dr Kalpana Apte (FPA India), Mr. Richard Boustred (DKT Janani), Mr. Shankar Narayanan, PSI India Pvt Ltd., Mr. Vivek Malhotra (PHSI), Ms. Sudha Tewari (PSS). During the panel discussion, the speakers shed light on various aspects for shaping a universal SRH program, including the importance of viewing SRH from the lens of contraception over family planning in current scenario, need for addressing the societal and policy barriers for adolescents’ accessibility and the role of Civil Society Organisations among others.
In the present-day scenario, there are a lot of challenges faced by adolescents concerning sexual and reproductive health and there is limited regulation on the government’s part in creating awareness and resources to combat such situations. With this virtual consultation, the panel and speakers aimed to destigmatize the conversation around abortion and sexual reproductive health for adolescents and youth.