Sexual and reproductive health a COVID-19 priority (Statement)

Burnet Institute, 28 May, 2020

Burnet Institute is a member of a consortium of Australian-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and academic institutes concerned about the detrimental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls globally.

The International Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Consortium, which includes Save the Children, Family Planning NSW, CARE Australia, The Nossal Institute for Global Health, and Médecins Sans Frontières Australia, is calling on the Australian Government to prioritise the needs of women and girls in its response to COVID-19.

Collectively, the consortium works across 160 countries to champion universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

It’s concerned that women and girls across the globe are struggling to access critical sexual and reproductive health care, citing evidence that COVID-19 lockdowns are likely to cause millions of unplanned pregnancies.

In the Pacific, travel to rural and remote areas have been curtailed, and physical distancing requirements have forced the cancellation of most group training on sexual and reproductive rights.

A recent UNFPA report determined that a six-month lockdown could mean 47 million women and girls globally cannot access contraception, and seven million will become pregnant.

The consortium has issued a joint statement setting out priorities to ensure Australia’s global response to COVID-19 meets the critical needs of all women and girls, including:

  • Recognise and respond to the gendered impacts of the pandemic, and the increased risk to women and girls from gender-based violence and other harmful practices
  • Improve the supply of contraceptives and menstrual health products which are being impacted by the strain and disruption on global supply chains
  • Increase flexibility in delivering sexual and reproductive health services during lockdown using innovative health delivery models such as task-sharing, tele-health and pharmacy distribution
  • Support sexual and reproductive health workers and clinics to continue delivering services sagely with access to personal protective equipment as well as training on how to refer, test or diagnose COVID-19.

 

There are fears coronavirus is stopping Australia’s migrant women from accessing abortions

SBS News, 26th April 2020

Vulnerable pregnant women could lose access to abortion throughout Australia because of increased financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic, reproductive health providers have warned. 

A combination of widespread job losses, differing abortion laws around the country, and patchy access to Medicare, could mean more women need financial assistance to terminate unwanted pregnancies or will face carrying their pregnancies to term.

Some providers even fear a return to people attempting unsafe abortions if women cannot afford legal terminations.

COVID-19: A Gender Lens – sexual & reproductive health and gender inequality

UN Population Fund (UNFPA), March 2020

Disease outbreaks affect women and men differently, and pandemics make existing inequalities for women and girls and discrimination of other marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities and those in extreme poverty, worse. This needs to be considered, given the different impacts surrounding detection and access to treatment for women and men.

Women represent 70 percent of the health and social sector workforce globally and special attention should be given to how their work environment may expose them to discrimination, as well as thinking about their sexual and reproductive health and psychosocial needs as frontline health workers

Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Bangkok: July 2019

The resource “Blueprint for  Sexual and Reproductive  Health, Rights, and Justice” has just been released by Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and endorsed by multiple international organisations. 

While it focuses on US policy environ, it is more broadly applicable: in particular the focus on sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice – as well as the intersections with numerous other issues such as  gender equity, racial equity, economic justice, environmental justice, the right to community safety, immigrants’ rights, indigenous people’s rights, LGBTQ+ liberation, young people’s rights, and the rights of people with disabilities.

Because sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice intersect with numerous other issues, policy solutions must also seek to further gender equity, racial equity, economic justice, environmental justice, the right to community safety, immigrants’
rights, indigenous people’s rights, LGBTQ+ liberation, young people’s rights, and the rights of people with disabilities.

  • Principle 1: Ensure that Sexual and Reproductive Health Care is Accessible to All People
  • Principle 2: Ensure Discriminatory Barriers in Health Care are Eliminated
  • Principle 3: Ensure that Research and Innovation Advance Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice Now and in the Future
  • Principle 4: Ensure Health, Rights, Justice, and Wellness for All Communities
  • Principle 5: Ensure Judges and Executive Officials Advance Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice are essential for sustainable economic development, are intrinsically linked to equity and well-being, and are
critical to maternal, newborn, child, adolescent, family, and community health.
Health care cannot truly be comprehensive if it does not include sexual and reproductive health

SHINE SA and FPAA condemn Alabama law to ban abortions (media release)

On 17 May 2019, Family Planning Alliance Australia (FPAA) released a statement condemning a new law in Alabama which makes abortion a crime in almost all cases. This is the most restrictive abortion law in the United States and follows a wave of anti-abortion laws in 2019¹.

FPAA state:

“The restrictive and extreme abortion ban violates women’s reproductive rights and penalises health care practitioners for providing basic health care. As an organisation committed to empowering reproductive choice and improving access to health care, we find this law disturbing and unjust.”

Natasha Miliotis, SHINE SA’s Chief Executive Officer said that:

“SHINE SA supports the FPAA statement and recognises that access to safe abortion services reduces the mortality and morbidity that occurs as a result of dangerous and illegal abortion. This is evidenced by a higher frequency of abortion-related deaths in countries with restrictive abortion laws than in countries with less restrictive laws².

SHINE SA, a member of FPAA, advocates for reproductive freedom and for provision of legal, safe, affordable and accessible abortion in Australia and worldwide. We recognise that trans, gender diverse and intersex people may also need access to abortion, but also that measures such as this disproportionately affect women.

SHINE SA believes that both medical and surgical abortion are safe and effective health interventions and that abortion is a private medical decision that should not be politicised.”

To read the FPAA statement visit this link. For further information contact Tracey Hutt, Director Workforce Education and Development via email. 

 

¹ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/17/we-have-to-fight-alabamas-extreme-abortion-ban-sparks-wave-of-activism

² https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26677181_Unsafe_Abortion_Unnecessary_Maternal_Mortality

Women and Sexual and Reproductive Health Position Paper: Second Edition, 2019

Australian Women’s Health Network Inc., 2019

The Australian Women’s Health Network first published its Women and Sexual and Reproductive Health Position Paper in 2012. Since then significant work has been undertaken across Australia in this area and a number of its recommendations have been implemented. This has resulted in a robust on going public conversation and a greater understanding of women’s sexual and reproductive ill health, its impact, what drives it and how best to prevent it. These gains have only been possible through continuing evidence-informed advocacy, research and practice development.

In light of the new knowledge and experience available, and changes to the political, organisational and social landscape in 2019, the Australian Women’s Health Network has updated its Women and Sexual and Reproductive Health paper to produce
this Second Edition.

This paper advocates for a rights-based approach to ensuring all women can access comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care appropriate to their needs,
regardless of their location, age, sexuality, financial status and religious and cultural background. It explores seven key areas through which good sexual and reproductive
health for Australian women can be achieved.

These are:

1. promoting positive and respectful attitudes to sex and sexuality

2. developing women’s health literacy

3. increasing reproductive choice

4. facilitating women’s health throughout pregnancy and birth

5. expanding prevention and treatment of reproductive cancers and menstrual issues

6. improving prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

7. equipping the health workforce to better respond to women’s health needs.