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.