Radio — A broad vision for sexual and reproductive health and rights

On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Sandeep Prasad and Frédérique Chabot. They work for Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, an organization that is active on a wide range of issues connected to sexuality, gender, and reproduction, both in Canada and globally.

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights formed in 2014 with the merger of three existing organizations: Action Canada for Population and Development, which had an international focus, came together with Canadians for Choice and with the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health, both of which were active primarily within Canada.

At the international level, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights is an active partner in the Sexual Rights Initiative, a coalition of groups from countries in both the Global North and the Global South working primarily within the United Nations system to advocate for progressive policies on sexual and reproductive rights. As well, they partner directly with organizations working on these issues in other countries.

Domestically, they are involved on a number of fronts. They offer a 24/7 access and support line that people can call when they face an unintended pregnancy or any sexual health issues. Related to that, they manage an emergency fund to help people overcome barriers to accessing abortion services. This frontline engagement with people attempting to access health care intimately informs the organization’s policy advocacy, much of which is geared to pushing for changes in how health care in jurisdictions across Canada is organized and delivered so as to reduce and eventually eliminate the many different barriers that many different groups of people continue to face — barriers that mean, notwithstanding a lot of rhetoric that we often hear in this country, that health care is still a long way from being truly universal.

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights also does education work around sexual and reproductive health — some of that is public education, but it also involves developing resources for teachers to support the delivery of comprehensive sexuality education in schools, as well as educating health care professionals as part of the work of addressing barriers to access.

And one of the most visible campaigns by the organization in recent years has been related to Mifegymiso, a medication for inducing medical abortions. Though the drug has received Health Canada approval, albeit after an unusually lengthy process, it is still in the process of being taken up as one approach to delivering abortion services by health care systems and providers across the country. Action Canada has prepared resources to educate both the public and policy makers about the drug, and is advocating for things like public coverage of the cost of this quite expensive medication in all jurisdictions and changes in what they argue are excessively restrictive regulations around prescribing and dispensing it, in order to minimize barriers to access.

In all of this work, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights takes an approach that they describe as “movement building.” For them, a central aspect of what that term means inovlves working with groups, organizations, and movements that deal with different issues, to understand how their respective struggles intersect and to collaborate in working towards a larger vision of justice. In some contexts, this is about recognizing how a common grounding in concern for bodily autonomy can break down silos that often divide groups that are working on different aspects of sexual, gender, and reproductive rights. But it also means situating their work in the context of broader struggles — for example, working to make sure that their policy work to make Mifegymiso as well as surgical abortion options as accessible as possible is situated in the larger call for access to healthcare by people who often face unjust exclusion from our supposedly universal access, such as Indigenous people and refugees.

Sandeep Prasad is the executive director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, and Frédérique Chabot is their Health Information Officer. They speak with me about barriers to health care in the Canadian context, and about the work of the organization to advance sexual and reproductive health, and sexual and reproductive rights, both globally and in Canada.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

The image modified for use in this post is used with permission of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.

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