Reproductive Health Coverage In European Health Insurance Plans: Fertility Treatments And Beyond – Let’s talk about sexual and reproductive health and rights: not fully implemented before COVID-19 and suspended during the pandemic
In the wake of the current health crisis, governments have struggled to implement lockdown measures that would strike a balance between keeping us healthy and safe, without overly restricting our freedoms and liberties. National equality bodies have monitored these measures to ensure that they do not undermine rights to equality and non-discrimination. It is even more difficult, in the current situation, to protect and not limit these fundamental rights, which were not fully implemented before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. A prominent example of this is sexual and reproductive health and rights. JSBG are not only an essential part of health care, but also an essential element in achieving gender equality and promoting women’s rights. They allow women to make autonomous decisions about their bodies and sexuality. They keep women healthy, dignified and safe.
Reproductive Health Coverage In European Health Insurance Plans: Fertility Treatments And Beyond
This blog post outlines the limitations on access to sexual and reproductive health and rights across Europe, as well as the further violations we are seeing now as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. By examining how equality bodies respond, this article demonstrates the unique role that equality bodies play in monitoring member states’ obligations to enforce and respect equality legislation, and explains how their response should also include access to ECD.
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Although sexual and reproductive health and rights cover many topics, for the purposes of this post they can generally be simplified to cover the aspects of safe sexuality and motherhood. Sexual rights may include the right to sex education, the right to be free from sexual violence and rape, or the right to decide whether or not to have children. On the other hand, reproductive rights can include access to contraception (including emergency contraception), access to menstrual and sanitary products, access to safe and legal abortion, and ensuring safe pregnancy and childbirth. However, the SRHR also addresses violations such as the elimination of female genital mutilation (FGM) and the prevention of forced sterilization or sexually transmitted diseases.
All these things have in common that they require access to health services and medicines, health education programs and awareness campaigns. Therefore, SSHRs are part of our healthcare, and Article 35 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights guarantees equality in healthcare. Furthermore, ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services is also included in United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 on good health and well-being. It is therefore crucial to underline, to understand and fully acknowledge, that when we discuss access to SRHR we are not discussing options for Member States to consider. SSHR, as part of health care, are essential, which means that member states have an obligation to guarantee access to them, and the failure to guarantee this is a violation of fundamental rights.
National equality bodies are watchdogs for the application of equality legislation by national governments and are promoters of equality and non-discrimination across Europe. Among other reasons, they are mandated to combat gender discrimination. Equality bodies are therefore well placed to ensure that women’s rights are not violated, that equality in health care is ensured, including SSHR.
Access to all sexual and reproductive health and rights was already restricted before the outbreak of the pandemic. Although abortion is now available in certain circumstances in 39 European countries, several countries still have time limits for abortions that end in the first trimester, and Malta still does not allow abortion at all. When it comes to access to various contraceptives, according to the Contraceptive Atlas Index by the European Parliamentary Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Rights (EPF), national health systems in several European countries still do not provide adequate reimbursement for the supply of contraceptives, nor do they provide sufficient additional information. how and where to get it Additionally, women still face barriers due to third-party consent requirements. This means that they must first see a doctor, who decides whether to allow the use of contraceptive methods and then whether to write a prescription, for example for hormonal contraceptives. This need to obtain a prescription from a gynecologist is another barrier in countries where universal health care is not always available. In Poland, which has the lowest score on the index, even emergency contraception is not available without a prescription. This creates additional stress due to the limited time available to obtain and take emergency contraception while it is still effective. As access is already limited and complicated PhD procedures also place an additional financial burden on the process, it is inevitable that these restrictions will disproportionately affect women living in poverty, women with disabilities, Roma women and trans and gender non-binary people.
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The social stigma created around the issue has further contributed to the deterioration of women’s dignity and safety when trying to access these services. Criminalizing women and medical professionals who act outside the legal framework to provide abortions, lack of adequate sex education and the use of the conscience clause, even when the health risks are visible and prevalent, are some examples of what affects perceived “acceptability”. ‘ Ignoring SRHR access.
During the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures, access to SRHR has become even more difficult than before. The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe (CoE) has made the message clear in his statement: “while several member states are taking laudable measures in order to mitigate the negative effects of the crisis on women’s rights and gender equality, women’s sexual and reproductive health should not be neglected and rights Full respect for them is an essential component to guarantee women’s human rights and advance gender equality”. Our member, the Office of the Commissioner for Administration and Protection of Human Rights (ombudsman) of Cyprus, stressed that policies such as banning the presence of a person of the mother’s choice in maternity rooms constitute discrimination. the basis of the genre.
Women living in countries with the most restrictive abortion laws usually go abroad to neighboring countries with more liberal laws if they need the procedure. Current travel restrictions make it impossible for these women to do so. The issue has been highlighted, for example, by Maltese activists. Another worrisome issue is the disruption of supply chains caused by demand and reductions in production and delivery services, shortages of contraceptives and emergency contraceptives available in pharmacies. This issue is even more critical now, with the alarming increase in sexual and gender-based violence, for example in cases of domestic abuse or rape.
Various rules established by the state, with the aim of reducing the spread of the virus, have also had an effect on making pregnancy and childbirth safe and respecting all the rights and wishes of the mother. The Slovak National Center for Human Rights was the first to report cases of fathers who were not present at birth in certain hospitals. Facing similar problems, the Cyprus Ombudsman released an official statement stating that “the rights of women during childbirth must be protected during the COVID-19 pandemic, if all necessary preventive and protective measures are taken to avoid the risk of spreading the virus”. Otherwise, it would be direct gender discrimination against pregnant women who want to be the chosen person during the birth”.
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Fathers are not the only ones missing from treatment centers. In several regions of Poland, visiting a gynecologist has become particularly difficult, as many of them have closed their offices and stopped working due to the risk of catching or spreading the virus. However, for pregnant women, prophylaxis is particularly important and teleconsultation is unlikely to be a sufficient alternative for many other medical conditions. This shows that access to adequate health care is particularly crucial when it comes to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The responses of some governments to the COVID-19 pandemic have deliberately refrained from ensuring access to SRHR. Such was the case in Romania, where abortions are no longer considered essential and hospitals no longer perform them. The Slovak National Center for Human Rights has also received cases of women who have been denied an abortion on the grounds that it is not urgent health care. The Center requested a statement from the Ministry of Health. He also called for the medical staff to respect the code of ethics and act according to their best medical knowledge, emphasizing the need to protect women’s sexual and reproductive rights.
Other governments have also tried to use the pandemic to deliberately impose regressive restrictions on SRHR. In Poland, when a state of emergency was declared, in April the government tried to push through a bill that would have further restricted abortion, while public gatherings were banned.
States must see how the COVID-19 pandemic affects women’s health and draw conclusions. Now more than ever we are seeing the dangerous consequences of limiting access to SRHR for women. Governments should see the health crisis as an opportunity
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