Research and Policy Resources: COVID-19’s Impact on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Guttmacher Institute experts have been assessing the impact of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic on sexual and reproductive health and rights at multiple levels: the challenges posed by the virus itself, as well as by longstanding gaps in policies and programs that have left society struggling to respond to the crisis. 

This page highlights Guttmacher’s growing body of research and policy resources in this area.

Background and Overview

The COVID-19 Outbreak: Potential Fallout for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

What is the potential impact of the pandemic around the globe and in the United States? Our analysis looks at factors such as the effect on health care systems, economic barriers to care, changes in reproductive behavior and ideological attacks against sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Read the analysis (March 2020)

In Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Impacts of COVID-19 on Contraceptive and Abortion Services in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Scoping Review

Our researchers conducted a scoping review to identify, map and synthesize studies in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that measured the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on demand for, provision of and access to contraceptive and abortion-related services, as well as the reproductive outcomes of those impacts. The findings showed that the impacts varied substantially across countries, health services and populations studied. Continued monitoring is needed to assess impacts on key health services as the pandemic evolves.

Read the report (August 2022)

Access to Contraceptive Services Among Adolescents in Uganda During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions raised concerns that adolescents in Uganda may face barriers to receiving family planning commodities and services. Public and private service statistics reveal that a temporary dip in service visits during April 2020 was followed by a return to previous levels and even an increase in family planning visits among adolescent women during the remainder of 2020.

Read the report (November 2021)

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health in Ethiopia

To understand how adolescent sexual and reproductive health in Ethiopia was affected during the months following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, this report uses service statistics data from 2019 and 2020 to analyze changes in service coverage across three main areas of adolescent sexual and reproductive health care. The data reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic had at least a short-term impact on adolescent sexual and reproductive health outcomes.

Read the report (November 2021)

From Bad to Worse: The COVID-19 Pandemic Risks Further Undermining Adolescents’ Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Many Countries

The pandemic is taking a disproportionate toll on young people, as they find themselves cut off from educational opportunities, at greater risk of human rights violations and with reduced access to health care. Our new estimates illustrate the devastating impact declines in essential sexual and reproductive health care could have for adolescents in 132 low- and middle-income countries. We collaborated with the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning to assess the pandemic’s potential fallout on adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health and rights and set forth policy recommendations to avert future harm.

Read the analysis (August 2020)

COVID-19 Threatens to Unravel Years of Progress on Reproductive Health and Rights

Great progress has been made in the last 30 years around the globe on sexual and reproductive health and rights. This op-ed, coauthored by Guttmacher President and CEO Dr. Herminia Palacio and Distinguished Scholar and Vice President for Global Science and Policy Integration Dr. Susheela Singh, analyzes and highlights the disparities that remain in low- and middle-income countries and that are further exacerbated by the pandemic. Our experts advise that governments must act before all the progress made is undone.

Read the op-ed (July 2020)

COVID-19 Could Have Devastating Effects on Adolescents’ Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

This op-ed looks at the challenges adolescents in low- and middle-income countries may face as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic’s ripple effects are more likely to affect adolescents—a population that already has higher rates of unmet need for health services and that faces increased barriers to confidential sexual and reproductive health care and high-quality and accurate information about sex.

Read the op-ed (June 2020)

Estimates of the Potential Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Sexual and Reproductive Health in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Our researchers estimate that even a relatively modest decline of 10% in the provision of essential reproductive health services as a result of the pandemic would have devastating effects on the health of women and families, including an increase of 49 million in the number of women with an unmet need for modern contraception and an additional 15 million unintended pregnancies per year. The article includes full findings and the research methodology.

Read the report (April 2020)

Crisis on the Horizon: Devastating Losses for Global Reproductive Health Are Possible Due to COVID-19

Virus outbreaks may be inevitable, but catastrophic losses for sexual and reproductive health are not. By learning from prior epidemics, putting in place critical resources and systems and promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights, we can prevent health system disruptions that would have devastating, lasting impacts. This document presents our policy recommendations on how to avert this disaster.

Read the analysis (April 2020)

In the United States

Impact on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Financial Instability and Delays in Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Care Due to COVID-19

This study—conducted in three states between May 2020 and May 2021—examines access to contraception and other sexual and reproductive health care among almost 1,500 patients at more than 50 publicly funded clinics in Arizona, Iowa and Wisconsin. It finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented or delayed as many as half of family planning patients from getting birth control or related sexual and reproductive health care—and that those who experienced financial hardship were particularly affected.

Read the study and download the social media graphic (February 2022)

The Continuing Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States: Findings from the 2021 Guttmacher Survey of Reproductive Health Experiences

This study—based on a survey conducted in the summer of 2021—finds that although COVID-19’s impact on people’s childbearing plans has lessened since the beginning of the pandemic, 15% of respondents said they wanted fewer children or to have children later because of the pandemic. Furthermore, 19% of respondents had trouble getting contraceptive or other sexual and reproductive care during the previous 12 months. The study also finds that COVID-19 continues to have a disproportionate impact on those already marginalized because of their race, income or sexual orientation. This study is a follow-up to a June 2020 Guttmacher report documenting reproductive health impacts at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the report (December 2021)

Early Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Findings from the 2020 Guttmacher Survey of Reproductive Health Experiences

Our study finds that one-third of U.S. women want to put pregnancy on hold or have fewer children due to COVID-19 and the ensuing financial, job and social insecurity. Among other key findings, we also document that the pandemic is heightening the severe barriers to health care that many people already face based on their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or income level—making it harder for them to get contraception and other reproductive health care. 

Read the report (June 2020)

Download slides (June 2020)

Read the related op-ed (January 2021)

COVID-19 and Immigrants’ Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in the United States

Guttmacher and Columbia University research experts examine how the pandemic has affected immigrants’ ability to obtain sexual and reproductive health care. Many immigrants have been intentionally excluded from COVID-19 relief support, in addition to having long faced barriers designed to exclude them from public insurance programs—further exacerbating challenges in obtaining health coverage and care.

Read the report (June 2020)

Read the related op-ed (June 2020)

Download slides (August 2020)

COVID-19 Job Losses Threaten Insurance Coverage and Access to Reproductive Health Care for Millions

Guttmacher research and policy experts analyze the broader economic and insurance upheavals brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, estimating that an additional 1.7 million patients will need to rely on publicly supported health clinics. The analysis, first published on Health Affairs Blog, offers tables and a graphic detailing the change in numbers of women—categorized by insurance status and other characteristics—who will be obtaining sexual or reproductive health services at publicly funded health clinics. 

Read the analysis (July 2020)

The Sexual and Reproductive Health of Adolescents and Young Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Guttmacher and Rutgers University research experts review potential immediate and long-term impacts of the pandemic on young people’s sexual and reproductive health. Widespread social and economic shifts have disrupted young people’s social and intimate relationships in numerous ways and have also interfered with their ability to get affordable and confidential sexual and reproductive health care.

Read the report (June 2020)

Family Planning Providers Show Creativity and Resilience in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Family planning providers are no strangers to challenges: Restrictive state political environments have required them to adapt to new guidelines on short notice. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providers continue to show flexibility and innovation by expanding the scope and nature of telehealth services, offering curbside care and adjusting safety measures for in-clinic visits.

Read the analysis (June 2020)

Pandemic-Related Restrictions on Care

Surveying State Executive Orders Impacting Reproductive Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 prompted many states to adopt measures to slow the spread of the virus and preserve health care capacity, with numerous states issuing executive orders. This analysis reviews state pandemic responses and details how governors made clear their intent to either support or restrict reproductive health care. Includes a table with a state-by-state breakdown.

Read the analysis (July 2020)

COVID‐19 Abortion Bans and Their Implications for Public Health

Our research experts examine the scientific literature around the harmful impact of abortion bans imposed using COVID-19 as a pretext, discussing the implications both for people seeking abortions and for the clinics that provide them.

Read the report (May 2020)

COVID-19 Abortion Bans Would Greatly Increase Driving Distances for Those Seeking Care

Some states threaten to enact policies that would greatly increase the distance women will need to travel to access abortion care. This analysis details the increases in driving distances should abortion care be shut down in any given state, as well as the impact should an entire cluster of adjoining states in the South and Midwest shut down care. A spreadsheet with data for all 50 states is included.

Read the analysis (April 2020)

Anti-abortion Groups Are Making COVID-19 an Even Greater Public Health Threat 

An op-ed by Guttmacher President and CEO Dr. Herminia Palacio makes the case that abortion is essential and time-sensitive health care, countering attempts by antiabortion politicians to callously exploit the pandemic to shut down access to abortion services.

Read the op-ed (March 2020)

Policy Recommendations

Ten Things State Policymakers Can Do to Protect Access to Reproductive Health Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As states implement policies to keep people safe from the coronavirus, they must ensure that people can receive high-quality sexual and reproductive health services. Our state policy experts have a full menu of recommendations for them to consider.

Read the analysis (May 2020)

Nine Things Congress Must Do to Safeguard Sexual and Reproductive Health in the Age of COVID-19

As U.S. policymakers at the national level respond to the COVID-19 crisis, our federal policy experts offer nine concrete actions that Congress needs to prioritize in relief efforts to safeguard sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Read the analysis (April 2020)

Media Contacts

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