Action Canada is thrilled to announce that we have secured $2,122,795 in funding over three years from Health Canada to strengthen our sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services.
This landmark funding will help bolster our Access Line capacity, strengthen our Sexual Health Information Hub, and help us support more people who face financial barriers to abortion through our Norma Scarborough Emergency Fund. This funding is the first of its kind from the federal government for domestic SRHR, and part of a broader $45 million commitment towards supporting the work of sexual and reproductive health services and information in Canada.
For over seven years, Action Canada has run the Access Line through the support of volunteers and has relied on individual donors for the Norma Scarborough Emergency Fund, which gets drawn to $0 year after year. Despite abortion being decriminalized over 30 years ago, unequal access to abortion services is an ongoing obstacle for those who choose to terminate their pregnancies, especially if they live in rural or remote areas, and the line is a critical resource for many.
“Every day on the Access Line, we speak to people who tell us about the barriers they face in accessing abortion,” says Frédérique Chabot, Director of Health Promotion at Action Canada. Adding that, “most callers we speak to have little access to accurate, stigma-free information and struggle to navigate arcane bureaucracy to get the care they need.” Financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and higher levels of stress and anxiety faced by many have only compounded these barriers.
The Access Line and Sexual Health Information Hub offer callers and online visitors sexual health and abortion provider referrals and accurate, non-judgmental information about sexual and reproductive health. The funding from Health Canada will allow Action Canada to increase staffing on the line, create greater opportunities to reach more people, and increase our ability to support individuals through the Emergency Fund—individuals across Canada who might not otherwise have access to the care and services they want and need.
The funding will also provide the resources to update the Sexual Health Information Hub and ensure the content is delivered through an anti-oppressive, anti-racist, and trauma-informed lens. This improved capacity and information will ensure that more people are connected to the services and information they need and have a right to.
“This funding comes at a critical time,” says Chabot. “Reproductive health and sexual health have been de-prioritized in the face of the pandemic, and we have seen an unprecedented number of people calling the Access Line and requesting financial support from the Norma Scarborough Emergency Fund.”
The funding from Health Canada will help Action Canada better support individuals who face the most significant challenges to abortion access, including those facing issues stemming from precarious housing, disability, or intimate partner violence.
Against the backdrop of the pandemic, there is also ongoing and escalating push-back against abortion access and rights in Canada from anti-choice groups, who will only be emboldened by the recently leaked decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Sexual and reproductive health and rights are under attack globally, and the likely dismantling of Roe v. Wade will not only create more fear and stigma around abortion, but will encourages anti-abortion organizations and politicians wanting to take away our rights here in Canada. It is critical that all people in Canada, and everywhere, have access to accurate, judgment-free information about all of their options so they can make the decision that is right for them. That is our aim with the services we provide.”
Amid these overlapping crises, it is critical that we bolster our services and strengthen our resources to ensure that no one is left behind. We welcome this landmark $2 million commitment from Health Canada and look forward to working together to ensure that everyone, everywhere has their sexual and reproductive health needs met, and rights upheld.