International Women’s Day – Australia should guarantee sexual and reproductive rights
Spain recently passed laws to guarantee and facilitate access to sexual and reproductive rights. In the lead-up to International Women’s Day, Sustainable Population Australia has called on the Australian Government to follow Spain’s example.
Spain’s new law ensures national health agencies will provide safe and accessible abortions; introduces menstrual leave; and makes comprehensive sexual education a mandatory part of schooling.
SPA spokesperson Ms Sandra Kanck says the legislation also addresses violence and discrimination faced by women and girls, including lesbian, bisexual and trans women.
“Violence takes many forms and includes denial of the right to modern contraception and safe abortion,” says Ms Kanck. “It may even take the form of denial of age-appropriate information about sex.
“In Australia, even in states where abortion is now legal, women and girls sometimes have to travel hundreds of kilometres to get a safe abortion. There are towns in Australia where it is difficult even to get modern contraception, let alone an abortion.
“Nearly a half of all pregnancies in the world are unintended,” says Ms Kanck. “In Australia, more than one quarter of pregnancies are unplanned, according to a La Trobe University study.
“While many unintended pregnancies are welcomed, others are not, which is a tragedy for both mother and child. It may even result in the death of the mother in pregnancy or childbirth.”
According to the UN, from 2000 to 2020, the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) declined by 34 per cent – from 342 deaths to 223 deaths per 100,000 live births.
“While we welcome this decline, there are still far too many women dying in childbirth or from pregnancy complications,” says Ms Kanck. “So many are avoidable. Had the woman had choice over becoming pregnant, she may still be alive.
“When a mother dies in childbirth, she often leaves other children who can grow up leading diminished lives, not having the love and care of their mother.
“In Australia, unplanned pregnancies can derail women’s career prospects, tie them to abusive partners and contribute to child poverty.
“It is a basic human right for women to have autonomy over their bodies. It is not enough to legalise: reproductive health information and services must be accessible to all women.”