National Women's Health Policy

Sexual and reproductive health

Page last updated: 07 February 2011

Submissions noted that current policies often focus on single issues, such as sexually transmitted infections, and neglect the promotion of broader sexual and reproductive health. There is also a need to link sexual and reproductive health to interdependent strategies, such as those for mental health and substance abuse. As well as differences in legislation among states and territories, the quality of health education varies, in the absence of minimum standards.

At the consultations many highlighted the importance of reproductive autonomy, based on offering women the full range of natural and medical options. Many submissions also stated that expanding women’s choice of service was important. For the majority, this meant access to free contraceptive services, pregnancy decision-making information, and Australia-wide access to pregnancy termination. For others, this was best achieved through giving all women access to natural or educational strategies for fertility control as part of mainstream service delivery.

There was strong support for placing sexual and reproductive health in a relationship context, rather than taking a mechanistic medical approach. Others focused on the need for a national education curriculum, to address varying levels of knowledge about fertility amongst young women. Some organisations highlighted how the quality of health education varies, in the absence of minimum curriculum standards.

There was less agreement on other recommendations for actions on reproductive health and sexuality. Some women wished to provide much greater support for alternatives to termination of pregnancy. Others wished to improve women’s access to safe, legal termination of pregnancy. Many focused on the need for priority groups of women to receive more targeted health promotion material and services.