PICUM Roundtable: Sexual and Reproductive Health

By Tara Ohl, PICUM Trainee and Alyna Smith, PICUM Advocacy Officer

Among the obstacles undocumented migrants face in realising their fundamental rights are the multiple barriers to access health care, including sexual and reproductive health services.

Most EU member states limit access to emergency care only for undocumented migrants, while a limited number provide access to primary care. Where there is an entitlement to care, it tends to be for specific services – maternal care, or treatment for HIV and other communicable diseases – that are disconnected from any right to access primary care.

To draw attention to states’ duties under international and EU law with regard to the right to health, and the reality as well as the impact of undocumented migrants’ extremely limited access to health services in practice, PICUM launched a report entitled “The Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of Undocumented Migrants: Narrowing the Gap Between Their Rights and The Reality in the EU”.

Together with Doctors of the World (MdM), International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) European Network and the Center for Reproductive Rights, PICUM also invited key partners to meet in Brussels to discuss challenges needing urgent attention and strategies to address them in order to improve access to health services, generally, and to sexual and reproductive health care in particular, for undocumented migrants.

Sexual and reproductive rights as part of the right to health care

International and European human rights laws are clear: access to sexual and reproductive health services is a component of the right to health. States that deny undocumented migrants access to essential health care act contrary to their international obligations.

Under international human rights law, the right to health means that health services must be available, accessible, acceptable and of good quality. These conditions equally apply to sexual and reproductive health.

All EU member states have ratified international human rights treaties, which guarantee the right to health, and thus to sexual and reproductive health. In addition, the principle of non-discrimination applies in the area of health care, which means that states have a duty to guarantee the right to health for everyone residing within their territory. Restrictions, in law or in practice, that limit access to essential health services on the basis of migration status may breach the principle of non-discrimination.

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