Advocates sound alarm over COVID-19 limiting access to contraceptives, abortion

Advocates sound alarm over COVID-19 limiting access to contraceptives, abortion

The COVID-19 outbreak has hit sexual-health services from almost every angle

Limited access to contraceptives and services because of COVID-19 is likely to lead to a surge in unintended pregnancies, according to sexual-health advocates.

Darrah Teitel with Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights has already noticed a big increase in the number of people calling its helpline in distress.

“We’re looking at a huge number of unintended pregnancies, probably,” Teitel said, unless something is done soon to make those services more available.

Otherwise, she said, the pandemic could lead to dire consequences for people’s sexual health, particularly for more vulnerable people.

The COVID-19 outbreak has hit sexual-health services from almost every angle, from contraceptive supply to access to tests for sexually transmitted infections.

One advocate said it is also already limiting access to abortions for some people.

“There definitely are some impacts based on larger hospital priorities to prepare for an influx in COVID-19 patients,” said Jill Doctoroff, the Canadian director of the National Abortion Federation, a professional association for abortion providers.

While hospitals consider access to abortions to be essential, she said those services have been sidelined or shut down completely in some institutions during the pandemic.

Public health measures have further complicated access to abortion services, which requires travel for people in some parts of the country, she said. Some clinics based outside hospitals have started to restrict their catchment areas to abide by advice to limit travel.

Doctoroff said she got a call for help from one patient whose abortion appointment was cancelled for that reason, leaving her unsure where to go or what to do.

That’s a problem because abortions are obviously a time-sensitive affair, she said. Sometimes Canadians can access late-term abortions in the United States, but that’s made more difficult by border closures and flight cancellations.

Meanwhile, many pharmacies have had to ration medications, including birth control, to one-month supplies to avoid shortages, according to the Canadian Pharmacists Association.

They have also noted a more limited supply of condoms, and they aren’t alone.

“We are definitely hearing about condom shelves being empty,” Teitel said.

Several factories in Malaysia have at least partially shut down operations over concerns about the virus, putting further strain on supply. That includes Karex, the company that bills itself as the world’s largest manufacturer of condoms.

That impact may not be fully felt for a few months, according to Perry Maclean, president of Pamco Distributing, which provides condoms to public health agencies and clinics.

For now, he hasn’t had a problem because the factories had good inventory on hand and the orders he’s received have been typical. But there are increasing issues with freight and factory closures that could have an impact down the line.

“We don’t want a spike in STIs because people can’t get products,” Maclean said.

Sexual-health clinics that would normally treat those potential sexually transmitted infections are also struggling. They are allowed to stay open because they are considered essential, but the circumstances make it difficult to provide the same level of service.

In Ottawa, the sexual-health clinic run by Ottawa Public Health provide low-cost birth control, counselling and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Like others across the country, it has had to shut down in-person services except for urgent appointments.

Some, like Planned Parenthood Ottawa, have turned to putting condoms and other sexual-health products in a bowl outside their front door, like Halloween candy, Teitel said.

It’s particularly problematic for provinces that had seen a recent surge in sexually transmitted infections before the pandemic began, she said. Saskatchewan and Manitoba have both recently declared outbreaks of syphilis.

She believes all those factors together could mean unplanned pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in a few months.

“These services are legally determined to be essential services because they’re life-saving, and they impact most vulnerable people first,” she said.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The current state of the Royal Hotel. (Photo Contributed by Richard Leeks)
‘No one is willing to step up to take any responsibility’: Royal owners plow on with renovictions

Heat, kitchen appliances, doors, running water and WiFi have been allegedly removed

RDEK reminds public to register for their emergency notification system. File photo.
RDEK reminds residents to register for East Kootenay Evacuation Notification System

Provincial Alert system cannot be used for local emergencies

City of Fernie city hall. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
City of Fernie: New orders a challenge, but community is supportive

Mayor Qualizza said that the new public health orders were an opportunity to safeguard the winter season

Sparwood mayor David Wilks was in attendance at the street party to discuss potential changes to Centennial Square.
Wilks reflects on new public health orders

Sparwood Mayor Wilks said that it was important to work towards a normal Christmas in 2020

(File Photo)
Sparwood implements new COVID test

Residents over the age of four qualify for the altered screening method

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

FILE – A paramedic holds a test tube containing a blood sample during an antibody testing program at the Hollymore Ambulance Hub, in Birmingham, England, on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Simon Dawson/Pool via AP)
Want to know if you’ve had COVID-19? LifeLabs is offering an antibody test

Test costs $75 and is available in B.C. and Ontario

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The grey region of this chart shows the growth of untraced infection, due to lack of information on potential sources. With added staff and reorganization, the gap is stabilized, Dr. Bonnie Henry says. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 tracing to keep up with surging cases

People now notified of test results by text message

People wear face masks as they pose next to a Christmas display in Montreal, Sunday, November 22, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

Dr. Hurst says it’s best to frame the conversation from a place of care, stressing safety precautions.

Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix.”
Free ‘Hollywood Suite’ movies in December include ‘Keanussance’ titles starring Keanu Reeves

Also featured is the Israeli-made ‘Valley of Tears,’ a 10-part war drama

Most Read