Legislation, laws, and public policies significantly influence women’s reproductive decisions and their real-life experiences. These factors are not only influenced by but also shape social, cultural, and political discourses, beliefs, and attitudes, which often endorse traditional gender roles and family structures while suppressing non-traditional life paths. Prevailing stereotypes about femininity, ideals of motherhood, and women’s gender roles are perpetuated by the state, which typically represents the status quo. Public policies play a central role in defining women’s roles, with an inherent responsibility to safeguard sexual and reproductive rights for women’s empowerment. Choice is fundamental to these rights, emphasizing the freedom “to” shape one’s life rather than simply freedom “from” constraints.
Despite the emphasis on choice, reproductive rights are often viewed primarily through a lens of harm prevention within policy frameworks. This perspective prioritizes concerns about bodily risks associated with reproduction over considerations of empowerment and self-determination. Assumptions about women’s bodies contribute to power imbalances in intimate relationships and institutional discourses that limit women’s rights. Ensuring women’s reproductive freedom, including access to affordable and timely reproductive health services, is a key aspect of public policy formation.
Reproductive decisions are complex and influenced by various intersecting factors and decisions over time, shaping women’s life trajectories and impacting their health and well-being. Policy environments, particularly those influenced by pronatalist ideologies, can significantly influence women’s reproductive autonomy. In Australia, for instance, pronatalist policies aimed at boosting fertility rates have included various incentives such as maternity allowances, childcare benefits, and parental schemes. These policies are complemented by measures designed to support women in balancing motherhood with paid employment.
Overall, the policy landscape in Australia reflects a pronounced pronatalist stance, characterized by initiatives aimed at promoting childbirth and supporting mothers in the workforce. These policies and their implications are central to understanding Australian women’s reproductive decision-making experiences.
The objective of this scoping review was to investigate the factors influencing the reproductive decision-making process among forcibly displaced women who are resettling in high-income countries.
The scoping review followed the PRISMA-ScR guidelines for reporting. EBSCO was utilized to search databases encompassing global health, health policy, psychology, sociology, and philosophy for articles published between January 1, 2012, and April 27, 2022.
Data extracted from each article included details such as author(s), publication year, publication type, aims/objectives, study design, sampling method, data collection or eligibility criteria, study population (including sample size and characteristics), migration status, countries of origin, host countries, key findings, and limitations.
Two independent reviewers screened all articles against the eligibility criteria using Covidence. Data charting and thematic analysis were conducted independently by one reviewer.
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How reproductive choices affect women’s health
Reproductive choice saves women’s and girls’ lives
Women and girls worldwide continue to face barriers in accessing critical reproductive health services, putting their lives at risk.
The absence of contraception or safe abortion options often leaves women with no choice but to resort to unsafe methods. Alarmingly, almost half of abortions are performed using dangerous methods, exposing women to severe long-term health risks and even death.
Banchi Dessalegn, MSI Africa Director, recalls her upbringing in Addis Ababa when abortion was heavily restricted. Tragically, she witnessed a girl who died by suicide after an unwanted pregnancy, unable to find help. Another girl vanished from school, rumored to have consumed bleach to terminate her pregnancy. Such stories highlight the dire consequences where safe abortion care is inaccessible.
Providing women and girls with high-quality reproductive healthcare is paramount for saving lives. MSI’s efforts resulted in saving 42,600 women’s and girls’ lives last year alone.
Reproductive choice helps girls stay in school
Many young girls are deprived of the opportunity to complete their education, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where up to four million teenage girls drop out of school annually due to pregnancy. In Niger, only one out of 100 girls will successfully complete secondary school.
Even just one additional year of education can boost a girl’s future earnings by as much as 20 percent.
Access to comprehensive reproductive health information and services can empower adolescents to make informed decisions, thereby enabling millions more girls to stay in school. To facilitate this, targeted strategies are being implemented to reach more young people. Last year, initiatives aimed at supporting girls’ education enabled 400,000 girls to remain enrolled in school.
Reproductive choice helps women build careers and financial independence
Depriving individuals of reproductive choice can lead to enduring economic challenges and perpetuate cycles of poverty. Studies indicate that women in the US who were denied access to abortion were at higher risk of experiencing bankruptcy, eviction, and increased household poverty and debt.
When women have control over their reproductive decisions, they are better positioned to chart their own life paths, including pursuing careers. It is well-established that employment and financial independence can profoundly impact a woman’s life and the well-being of her family. We take pride in supporting women’s aspirations and endeavors.
In conclusion, the examination of reproductive choices and their impact on women’s health underscores the multifaceted nature of this critical issue. Throughout the scoping review process, it became evident that reproductive choices significantly influence women’s overall health and well-being across various contexts, including those of forcibly displaced women resettling in high-income countries.
The reviewed literature highlights the intricate interplay between reproductive decision-making and women’s health outcomes. Access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare services, including contraception, safe abortion, and reproductive health education, emerged as pivotal factors in promoting women’s health and autonomy. Conversely, barriers to accessing these services, whether due to legal restrictions, socio-cultural norms, or economic constraints, can exacerbate health disparities and pose serious risks to women’s physical and mental well-being.
Furthermore, the review illuminated the broader societal implications of reproductive choices, underscoring how they intersect with social, political, and economic determinants of health. Women’s ability to make informed reproductive decisions not only affects their individual health but also shapes broader social and economic dynamics, including educational attainment, economic empowerment, and family stability.
Moving forward, addressing the complex nexus between reproductive choices and women’s health requires comprehensive and intersectional approaches. Policy interventions aimed at improving access to reproductive healthcare services, promoting reproductive rights, and challenging entrenched gender norms are essential steps towards safeguarding women’s health and autonomy. Additionally, further research is needed to explore the nuanced influences on reproductive decision-making among diverse populations, including forcibly displaced women, to inform targeted interventions and support mechanisms.
Ultimately, recognizing reproductive choice as a fundamental human right is paramount in advancing women’s health and achieving gender equity worldwide. By empowering women to make autonomous decisions about their reproductive health, we can foster healthier communities, promote social justice, and advance the broader agenda of gender equality.
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