Austria (CEDAW 30-07-2019)
The Committee considered the ninth periodic report of Austria (CEDAW/C/AUT/9) at its 1702nd and 1703rd meetings (see CEDAW/C/SR.1702 and
CEDAW/C/SR.1703), held on 10 July 2019. The Committee’s list of issues and questions is contained in CEDAW/C/AUT/Q/9, and the responses of Austria are contained in CEDAW/C/AUT/Q/9/Add.1.
E. Principal areas of concern and recommendations
- The Committee commends the State party for the adoption of the action plan for women’s health, in 2017, and welcomes the measures adopted to integrate a gender perspective into all health sector programmes. Nevertheless, the Committee remains concerned about the following:
(a) The challenges in acquiring access to affordable contraceptives for women living in poverty;
(b) The fact that abortion services and contraceptives are not paid for by health insurance;
(c) The use of conscientious objection among medical practitioners, thereby limiting access to safe abortion services, which are guaranteed by law;
(d) The lack of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education for adolescents;
(e) The lack of free and informed consent for medical treatment on the grounds of severe disability;
(f) The fact that language barriers and lack of awareness often prevent migrant women from acquiring access to health-care facilities, including those for sexual and reproductive health services;
(g) The difficulty faced by undocumented migrants in gaining access to non-emergency health care and that attempts to obtain the documentation necessary for non-emergency health services often lead to the claimant being reported to the authorities and subsequently deported;
(h) The reports of mostly irreversible medical and other treatments that are performed on intersex persons.
- In line with its general recommendation No. 24 (1999) on women and health, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure that modern contraceptives are accessible, affordable, covered by health insurance and available throughout the territory of the State party to all women and girls, in particular those living in poverty;
(b) Ensure access to safe abortion services, mainly by allowing doctors working outside of hospitals to provide abortifacients and ensure that such procedures are reimbursed by health insurance programmes;
(c) Ensure that the exercise of conscientious objection by health-care personnel does not pose an obstacle for women who wish to terminate a pregnancy;
(d) Ensure that education includes in school curricula mandatory and age-appropriate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights for girls and boys, including on responsible sexual behaviour, and in particular that education programmes incorporate a special focus on eliminating sexual and gender stereotypes that might hinder access to health for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and women belonging to other vulnerable groups;
(e) Guarantee that free and informed consent is obtained for any medical treatment, without exception, and, when necessary, provide supportive decision-making services;
(f) Ensure that medical professionals are aware of the cultural and linguistic barriers that migrant women face when acquiring access to health care, ensure the availability of female medical staff if requested and take steps to introduce awareness-raising campaigns, in relevant languages, among migrant communities on how to gain access to health-care services, including sexual and reproductive health services;
(g) Ensure that undocumented migrants have access to the documentation necessary for non-emergency health services without the risk of being reported to the authorities and subsequently deported;
(h) Develop and implement a rights-based health-care protocol for intersex persons, ensuring that children and their parents are appropriately informed of all options, that the children are involved, to the greatest extent possible, in decision-making about medical interventions, that their choices are respected and that no person is subjected to surgery or treatment without their free, informed and prior consent.