A photo of a clinical setting with three people in scrubs doing administration. In the foreground a nurse is on the phone.
A photo of a clinical setting with three people in scrubs doing administration. In the foreground a nurse is on the phone.

Today is the International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women. In recognition of this, Marie Stopes Australia has launched the second edition of Hidden Forces: a white paper on reproductive coercion in Australia.

Reproductive coercion is behaviour that interferes with the autonomy of a person to make decisions about their reproductive health and is a form of violence. It includes:

  • sabotage of another person’s contraception
  • pressuring another person into pregnancy
  • controlling the outcome of another person’s pregnancy
  • forcing or coercing another person into sterilisation; and
  • any other behaviour that interferes with the autonomy of a person to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. …

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A cartoon of a teacher standing at the front of a classroom. She is pointing at the smart board which reads: Reproductive coercion is not a buzzword. There are a class of students in front of her, and a clock and some shelves in the background.

‘Reproductive coercion’ is a term that’s often misused in policy, misinterpreted between languages and misunderstood in practice. Reproductive coercion is fast becoming a buzzword. And that needs to stop now.

Reproductive coercion is when a person is restricted from making choices about their own body, sexuality and reproductive healthcare. The opposite of reproductive coercion is reproductive autonomy. Reproductive autonomy is when we have access to information, the knowledge and the agency to make decisions about our own sexual and reproductive health.

Reproductive coercion first emerged in English language publications in the 1960s, when it was used to describe contexts of genocide and forced sterilisation. Global Indigenous rights movements have used the term to refer to the act and impacts of war and colonisation. …


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The word unprecedented has been used so frequently over the past four months. Perhaps this is because we have no words for what we have experienced, and very few people in the world would have a point of reference to which they can compare it. In one monumental sense, we are experiencing a global trauma — something that most of us have not experienced in our lifetimes.

When it comes to the impact of COVID-19 on sexual and reproductive health, however, I don’t believe that we can use the term unprecedented. We have seen clients struggle to access healthcare inter and intra state, and physical distancing and personal safety measures have placed additional pressures on clients and clinics and we have spent a considerable part of the pandemic having to justify why our care should be considered an essential health service. …


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As a global pandemic, COVID-19 has enhanced existing and created new stresses and strains on the structural and interpersonal aspects of our lives. The initial evidence that is emerging from countries across the world is indicating that the pandemic has increased the risk and occurrence of violence, including reproductive coercion and gender-based violence.

While it is important to investigate the impacts that COVID-19 has on gender based violence, including various forms of family, domestic and sexual violence, it is important to note that the pandemic has not directly caused this violence and coercion to occur. …


Two people lying on a couch, one leaning on the other. The person in the main frame is looking at their phone.
Two people lying on a couch, one leaning on the other. The person in the main frame is looking at their phone.

Sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) enable us to make personal choices about our own bodies, without judgement. They’re a bedrock of gender equality and women’s human rights. Leaders around the world have recognised the importance of protecting SRHR through COVID-19.

Consensual sex and intimacy are as important as ever! Some people have found a new love for self-pleasure and sex toys. Many people would be benefiting from pleasure during this stressful time. But some would also need barrier protection during sex, or they may be finding contraception more difficult to access. Some people may have changes to their menstrual cycle, have recently realised they are pregnant, or may not yet realise that their sexually transmitted infection could lead to chronic health issues. For others, they may be experiencing sexual abuse. …


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Sexual and reproductive health advocacy is as important ever. People currently have reduced power over their own bodies and their own healthcare.

The pandemic has seen increasing restrictions on contraceptive and abortion care in an effort to prioritise resources toward the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic provides us with a unique opportunity to change our health systems and structures. To a system which is accessible, responsive and equitable for all bodies. Here are five examples of actions that we could take now to effectively direct our energy and resources.

Locate ourselves

Acknowledge the land on which you live and access healthcare. Aboriginal knowledges are woven through and around us globally. Pandemics have existed for centuries, while Aboriginal cultures and methods of sexual and reproductive healthcare have existed for millennia. …


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On the eve of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, Pope John Paul II sent a letter to the “women of the world”. While the letter called for equal pay and an end to injustices, including Church-sanctioned injustices, against women, the letter steadfastly protected the Church’s position against divorce, ordination of women priests, and reproductive health and rights.

The agenda for the Fourth World Conference on Women boldly proposed address gender equality and the prevention of discrimination against women. The conference produced the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in the areas of health, violence, armed conflict, economy, power and decision-making, institutional mechanisms, human rights, media, environment, and the girl child. These are considered stepping-stones to reaching Generation Equality (fittingly, the United Nations theme of this year’s International Women’s Day). …


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Every day I come in to work and I am surrounded by generations of women.


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There are two numbers that deeply worry me: the number 2,300, and the number 2,295.

These numbers represent the impacts of picketers outside 1 abortion clinic each year:

  • 2,300: the number of clients who have encountered picketers outside the Marie Stopes Midland clinic in any given year.
  • 2,295: the number of hours that picketers have spent outside of the clinic entrance, scrutinizing and judging clients and staff over 12 months.

For many years clinic staff and supporters have fought for protections against these picketers. …


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A few years ago, I got a coat hanger tattoo on my ankle. It was International Safe Abortion Day and I got this simple image printed permanently on my body.

I told my friends about it, and with a brief explanation, they got it. They understood why I felt it was important. …

About

Marie Stopes Australia

Marie Stopes Australia is the leading, accredited, national provider for abortion, contraception and vasectomy.

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