Reproductive Health and Rights
Since our foundation nearly fifty years ago, WEL has campaigned for the removal of abortion from criminal codes. WEL's Reproductive Rights reform work focuses on legislation that gives women access to reproductive services including safe and affordable abortion, autonomy over their own bodies and related women’s health issues.
On September 26th 2019, New South Wales parliament made history by decriminalising abortion, overturning a 119 year old law. This was the culmination of a long campaign by the NSW Pro Choice Alliance, of which WEL was a leader. Our collective efforts achieved a significant milestone for women’s health rights. This win was a watershed moment for women’s equality, and a testament to our campaign mantra, Trust the Women.
The work for reproductive rights did not stop there and WEL will be monitoring the implementation of this abortion law reform, to make sure any woman, regardless of her postcode or bank balance, can access safe and timely reproductive health services.
WEL Priorities 2019 - 2022
(from WEL's 2019 Federal Election Priorities document and pre-election Scorecard)
National Women’s Health Strategy
The National Women’s Health Strategy was launched in April 2018.
The five priority areas for the National Women’s Health Strategy are:
Maternal, Sexual and Reproductive Health; Healthy Ageing; Chronic Conditions and Preventive Health; Mental Health and Health Impacts of Violence against Women and Girls.
The Government made a $52.3 million funding commitment to underpin the strategy, largely distributed across ovarian cancer and endometriosis research and treatments, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation service for Aboriginal women and health promotions. Only $7million is committed for Family Planning services, along with ante-natal and pre-natal services and health promotions.
Much of the Strategy remains unfunded in the short and longer term, with no announced implementation and linked funding plans.
Sections of the current Strategy omit or underplay important recent research, including:
the impacts of sexual assault and harassment on women’s health;
the contribution of the cultural silencing of women’s experiences of menstruation and
menopause to low confidence and other poor health outcomes;
reproductive coercion as a factor in women’s reproductive decisions;
the impacts of Australia’s patchwork systems of abortion laws and regulations on termination
the need for impartial and easily accessible information on contraception and reproductive
limited and inadequate GP and pharmacist training restricting availability of contraceptive and
termination services; the prohibitive cost of terminations; the cost of contraceptives and the
prohibitive cost of terminations, especially in rural and regional Australia; and
the critical role of access to crisis and long-term housing for women suffering family violence
and elder abuse.
Australian Women’s Health Network
The current Government withdrew funding from the Australian Women’s Health Network in 2016.
Since its establishment in 2009, the network has played a vital role in working with women’s medical and health services to identify emerging issues and research areas in women’s health. Development of a new National Women’s Health Policy and revised Strategy and Implementation Plan will require expert support through the peak women’s health organisations represented through the Network and should be based on the Network’s Australian Women’s Health Charter.
Maintain and extend family planning and reproductive health programs in Australia’s international aid program and our commitment to international treaties and agreements supporting women’s equality and reproductive rights.
Providing services to women in developing countries is a “key plank” for tackling both gender equality and poverty in the world. Australia has recently reiterated strong endorsement of the outcome statement for the 52n UN Commission on Population and Development, stating that ‘Australia remains strongly committed to advancing universal access to quality sexual and reproductive health and rights as a vital cornerstone of achieving broader sustainable, inclusive development.
On the other hand our international representatives recently refused to endorse an International Women’s Day statement at the United Nations, which called for access to safe abortions, comprehensive sexuality education and sexual reproductive health.
Australia's foreign aid funding for reproductive, maternal and sexual health has halved from $46 million to $23 million since 2012.
Cuts to family planning services take away the power women and girls have to decide when and how many children they give birth to. It will restrict their access to crucial maternal services.
Safe Access Zones in VIC and TAS here to stay
On 10th April 2019, the High court dismissed two cases from anti-choice campaigners in Victoria and Tasmania. Safe access zone laws in Victoria and Tasmania preventing anti-abortion protesters from harassing women seeking medical treatment will stay. The decision confirm the right for people to access the healthcare we need without having to forgo safety, privacy and dignity.
Adrianne Walters, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, and one of the people behind the April win for women's rights on safe access zones in the High Court, wrote of her grandmother's involvement with WEL in the 1970's and how our wins have been a long time coming.
'In the 1970s, my nan, as a member of the Women's Electoral Lobby, pushed for the decriminalisation of abortion. She knew what it felt like to discover a pregnancy and be powerless in the face of it, because of the law.
My nan, like the women she volunteered alongside, waited until her 80s to see abortion finally decriminalised in Victoria and her 90s to see the High Court affirm the importance of harassment-free access to abortion.
Women like her got us here...
Each of us should be able to decide what is right for our bodies. Women have fought for this basic right for generations. So while history was made this week, we'll keep pushing leaders around Australia to make reproductive rights a reality for all.'
Read the full article from The Age - HERE.
To read about our 2017- 2018 work visit this PAGE.