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

Comments are closed

Just Posted

COLUMN: Fiscal sticker shock

Deficit and debt increasing while Canada’s credit rating has been downgraded

LETTER: Summerland’s solar project should be scrapped

Flaws and objections have been raised

Summerland Ladies Club plays low net golf event

Scores calculated over two days

Two facing charges after RCMP search Penticton motel, find firearms, drug-trafficking related items

Samuel Prescott-Perreault, 32 years old, and 27-year-old Paige Rist are facing charges

Morning Start: There are over 200 dead bodies on Mount Everest

Your morning start for Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Gender pay gap is incentivizing fathers to work while mothers watch children, a new B.C. study has found

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Ghost gear accounts for up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the ocean by weight

Missing Lake Country man found safe

The 65-year-old, reported missing July 4, has been located safe and sound

Almost 99% less land in B.C. burned this year compared to 2018

2018 was the worst year on record for wildfires

B.C. orders Coastal GasLink to stop pipeline construction near protected wetlands

The 670-kilometre pipeline is planned to transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat

Sunflower Highway, art initiative to connect Fraser Valley, Thompson-Nicola and Okanagan

Sunflowers made out of reclaimed materials will be installed on public art trails

Volunteers pull off late-night eagle rescue in Salmon Arm

Bird bound for a rehabilitation centre in Delta

B.C. tent camps persist as hotels, housing bought for homeless

Current estimate 40 camps, homeless counts stalled by COVID-19

Shuswap River levels declining but remain ‘unseasonably high’

Users warned that some recreational activities common this time of year may not yet be safe

Most Read