Executive Director of the Oxfam-supported Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights
Abortion Program Manager and Doula at Birthmark
Oxfam is dedicated to addressing the challenges faced by people in the Philippines and Canada to access reproductive health services.
The Oxfam Confederation is networked in 87 countries as part of a global movement for change. Its mission is to build lasting solutions to poverty and injustice, focusing on improving lives and promoting women’s and girls’ rights. Reproductive justice is a particular area of focus for the organization.
Every day, 830 women die because of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, and 214 million women globally have unmet needs for contraception. Between 2010 and 2014, women had 25 million unsafe abortions globally. This needs to change. Oxfam believes that women should be able to make decisions about their bodies in a way that’s informed, fulfilling, and empowered.
Standing up for women
Girls and women worldwide face tremendous challenges in accessing reproductive services, particularly abortion.
“In the Philippines, you can get up to six years in jail for having an abortion and the practitioners can have their licenses revoked,” says Marevic Parcon, Executive Director of the Oxfam-supported Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights. “As a result, many people resort to unsafe practices to terminate pregnancies. Our data shows that three women die each day due to unsafe abortions in the Philippines.”
Challenges exist in Canada, too. “Even with full decriminalization, we have many access issues here,” says Melissa Fuller, Abortion Program Manager and Doula at Birthmark, an Oxfam-supported organization providing full-spectrum, no-cost doula services. “While there are no legal limits on abortion, there are limits in terms of how many providers there are and where they’re located. Also, abortions are meant to be covered by provincial or territorial health insurance, but many people living in Canada aren’t covered or eligible for those plans, making abortions financially inaccessible.”
While there are no legal limits on abortion [in Canada], there are limits in terms of how many providers there are and where they’re located.”
Working together to invoke change
Access to information and pervasive stigma are other barriers. Organizations like Birthmark work every day to change this through education and awareness campaigns as well as logistical and emotional support, financial support, and more.
The stigma runs even deeper in places like the Philippines, where organizations like the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights are advocating for decriminalization. “We’re one of the organizations that established the Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network, which has been working hard to de-stigmatize, demystify, and decriminalize abortion,” says Parcon. The organization has proposed progressive new legislation, and is looking for a champion to bring it to the House of Representatives. Thanks to the work of these activists and Oxfam’s support, a brighter future is within sight.
Visit oxfam.ca to learn more and to get involved.