- You can read the open letter here: https://resources.mariestopes.org.au/OpenLetter.pdf
- And you can endorse it here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/openletter
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:
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.
Marie Stopes Australia, Updated 17 April 2020
Situational Report: Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Australia – A request for collaboration and action to maintain contraceptive and abortion care throughout the SARS-COV-2 / COVID-19 pandemic
We are in a context of increased risk of unplanned pregnancy, reproductive coercion, sexually transmitted infections, lack of pregnancy options and a multitude of barriers to healthcare. Access to contraception and abortion throughout the pandemic will mitigate broader public health risks for years to come.
At Marie Stopes Australia, during the pandemic we have had to:
Cancel surgical abortion care lists- meaning women and pregnant people have had to continue with their pregnancies or are likely to seek a termination at a later gestation
Reduce our national gestational limit for surgical abortion to 22 weeks
Face increased costs in the provision of regional healthcare, having no other option than to charter private flights for clinical staff
Continuously scramble for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Reduce in-clinic list capacity to enable physical distancing
Reduce contraceptive services in order to prioritise abortion access
Reduce financial support for clients experiencing financial hardship
Face increased risk of staff fatigue and burn out
Evolve models of care in an effort to maintain access to care. To address this situation, we need to review legislation and policy, evolve models of care, maintain people’s rights to access care and make healthcare more affordable.
Key recommendations at this point in the pandemic include:
All Governments, health and hospital services, and health clinics must consider abortion an essential service with Category 1 classification
Provide access to medical abortion via telehealth for people living in South Australia
Increase medical abortion provision to 70 days/10 weeks gestation, supported by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
All accredited sexual and reproductive healthcare providers should have access to the National Medical Stockpile for PPE
Intrastate travel support is needed for clinical staff in order to maintain surgical abortion provision in regional and remote clinics
Do not criminalise women and pregnant people who attempt unsafe abortion
[This report contains] further detail on these points and a longer list of recommendations that Australia will need to consider in o order to maintain sexual and reproductive health
rights throughout the pandemic.
SHINE SA Media Release: 2 April 2020
Sexual and reproductive health must remain at the forefront of our minds during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is possible that throughout this crisis we may see a rise in unintended pregnancy as well as incidences of domestic violence, sexual violence and sexual coercion. Unfortunately this could come at a time where our health systems are focused on the prevention and management of the pandemic itself. In addition to general sexual health services, access to pregnancy options including abortion may be impacted over the next 6 months.
Unintended pregnancy rates are already high in Australia. It is estimated that half of all pregnancies are unplanned. It is possible that self-isolation/quarantine measures could see an increase in unprotected sexual activity without reliable forms of contraception. These circumstances may contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in an environment where support systems and personal wellbeing have been affected.
SHINE SA asks that people consider all of their contraceptive choices at this time. This includes long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) options, especially if they do not wish to become pregnant in the near future. These options can be discussed with a general practitioner.
It’s also important that people are aware that they can access the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) from community pharmacies. Oral emergency contraception is effective up to 120 hours after unprotected sex but the sooner it is taken, the greater the effectiveness.
Various sources, March 2020