Migrant women workers continue to face abortion access barriers: advocates
Migrant women workers continue to face abortion access barriers: advocates
While she has helped several migrant workers access abortion services in Canada, Evelyn Encalada Grez said one woman comes to mind.
"The migrant woman was so afraid of being found out that she needed to be taken by somebody else outside of the farm for a medical appointment," said Encalada Grez, a transnational researcher and advocate for migrant workers who has been studying the subject for more than 20 years.
On the day she came to pick the woman up to bring her to Toronto to meet health-care workers who could perform the procedure, it was raining.
Because the woman was so worried about being seen, she met Encalada Grez far away from the farm in the Niagara region where she worked.
"When I met her in the designated place where we agreed to meet, she was soaking, soaking, soaking, and I'm like, `Why does it feel like I'm doing something wrong?"' Encalada Grez recalled.
"What if she didn't have a friend or know anyone that does this type of grassroots work, what would have happened to her and her life?"
This experience is similar to many others Encalada Grez has had taking migrant workers to access an abortion. Moving in secrecy off farm property feels like organizing a heist.
Migrant women in Canada face profound barriers in accessing health care, especially when it comes to pregnancy. They often hide their pregnancies because if employers find out, they may send them home or refuse to hire them next season. Workers typically live on their employer's property and lack the privacy to discreetly seek care. Many live in remote, rural areas where abortion access is already sparse and transportation is hard to come by. And they face the added challenge of being unable to receive health care in their first language.
Another major barrier is cost, said Elene Lam, executive director of Butterfly, an organization of sex workers, social, legal and health professionals that advocates for the rights of Asian and migrant sex workers.
The migrant workers Lam advocates for typically lack provincial health-care coverage, and are required to pay out of pocket, she said. Depending on the stage of pregnancy, that can cost anywhere between a few hundred dollars and up to $1,500.
While many migrant workers can access public health care, not all of them can, said Lindsay Larios, assistant professor at the University of Manitoba, who studies precarious migration and reproductive justice.
This can be a result of having to wait the three-month period after arrival, during which time they must rely on private insurance. To get it, their employers have to file paperwork that sometimes doesn't get filed.
If they face issues with renewing work permits or visas, that can also mean a lapse in their immigration status.
When it comes to abortion, there is a lot of stigma around migrant workers having intimate or sexual relationships, said Larios.
She cited research that shows migrant workers are told by officials in their home countries or in Canada, or by their employers, that they should abstain from sexual relationships.
"Workers themselves feel that there's a real risk to their job -- for example, not being hired back the following year -- if they are seen as problematic employees who are transgressing this accepted unofficial policy," she said.
Despite the fact that the abortion pill, mifepristone, became available in Canada at the beginning of 2017, this has not necessarily translated into better access to abortion for migrant workers, said Larios and Lam.
The treatment, also known as medical abortion, can be done safely at home rather than requiring a trip to a clinic or hospital, but still requires a prescription from a doctor and costs hundreds of dollars if a patient has to pay out of pocket, Larios said.
Mohini Datta-Ray, executive director at Planned Parenthood Toronto, pointed out that medical abortion has very uncomfortable effects. It causes a lot of cramping, bleeding and pain, and is very debilitating for about a week or so, she said.
Given the few protections migrant workers have around their health, and how little it can take to deport them for an illness, disability or other scenario that makes them less valuable in the eyes of the employer, "it's just not the solution that you would think at first glance, if you're not in caught in this very impossible situation," said Datta-Ray.
If the federal government cares about abortion access, it could grant "status for all," a campaign to grant permanent residency for all temporary migrant workers and families with precarious legal status, said Frederique Chabot, director of health promotion at Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.
Action Canada supports the call because it knows without that, people will continue to go without abortion, Chabot said.
Encalada Grez echoed this and added that the government must reform temporary foreign worker programs so that employees are not tied to one employer and can have the freedom to go elsewhere, reducing the likelihood of exploitation.
"We need to be more accountable to the people that Canada brings in," she said.
The office of Carla Qualtrough, minister of employment and workforce development, has not yet responded to a request for comment.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
MORE HEALTH NEWS
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
With the nation's capital bracing for anticipated anti-mandate 'freedom' movement protests during Canada Day weekend, interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen says her MPs are free to attend.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday signed the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades, a bipartisan compromise that seemed unimaginable until a recent series of mass shootings, including the massacre of 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary school.
A gunman opened fire in Oslo's night-life district early Saturday, killing two people and leaving more than 20 wounded in what Norwegian security service called an 'Islamist terror act' during the capital's annual Pride festival.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ended the nation's constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade. Friday's outcome is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
They are the most fiercely polarizing issues in American life: abortion and guns. And two momentous decisions by the Supreme Court in two days have done anything but resolve them, firing up debate about whether the court's Conservative justices are being faithful and consistent to history and the Constitution – or citing them to justify political preferences.
Canadian politicians are responding to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to end constitutional protections for abortion, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling the news 'horrific.'
With the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end constitutional protections for abortion, 26 states are likely to ban abortions; 13 of which are expected to enact bans against the medical procedure immediately.
Russian forces were trying to block a city in eastern Ukraine, the region's governor said Saturday, after a relentless assault on a neighboring city forced Ukrainian troops to begin withdrawing after weeks of intense fighting.
An Ottawa criminologist says questions about whether political pressure was placed on the RCMP commissioner in the Nova Scotia shooting investigation illustrate why Brenda Lucki should not report to the public safety minister.
'It’s in shambles': RCMP 'architects of own demise,' says criminologist after complaints in N.B. and N.S.
After a week of criticism and anger at the Mass Casualty Commission in Nova Scotia, and outcry in a rural area of New Brunswick, there are questions about the RCMP’s role in community policing.
'Everything's on the table': Vancouver police tight-lipped as they investigate Indigenous teen's death
Vancouver police insist there's not much they can say publicly about their investigation into the death of missing Indigenous teen Noelle 'Ellie' O'Soup, but 'everything's on the table' as they work to determine how and why she died.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly says Canada will be bringing the concerns of smaller Commonwealth nations to the G7 leaders in Germany Sunday, particularly the growing threat of famine.
Soaring grocery prices are making it hard for some Canadians to feed their children, as families lean on food banks and donations for support.
Woman slashed in neck with machete in Vancouver stranger attack says she thought she was going to die
A woman who was attacked by a complete stranger armed with a machete on the streets of Vancouver is sharing her story.
A year ago in the middle of the night, a 12-storey oceanfront condo building in Surfside, Florida, came down with a thunderous roar, leaving a giant pile of rubble and claiming 98 lives -- one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history.
In the immediate aftermath of one of the Supreme Court's most consequential rulings, it was too soon to know how deeply the political landscape had shifted. Democrats hope to harness the emotion from women like Lowe to reset what has been an otherwise brutal election year environment.
Ukraine's largest LGBTQ rights event, KyivPride, is going ahead on Saturday. But not on its native streets and not as a celebration.
Now that the House and Senate have adjourned for the summer, CTVNews.ca breaks down what key pieces of legislation passed in the final days of the spring session, and what key government bills will be left to deal with in the fall.
The inquiry investigating the Nova Scotia mass shooting wants to know why the federal Justice Department withheld notes written by a senior Mountie for several months -- and if there's more revelations to come.
New research has found that women are 'significantly' more likely than men to suffer from long COVID syndrome, in addition to developing different symptoms of the disease.
The Ontario Brain Institute is playing a key role in open science and brain health research with the release of new clinical data that will help scientists around the world advance investigations into pediatric neurological conditions.
German lawmakers voted Friday to end the country's ban on advertising abortions, which has in the past led to doctors being prosecuted for providing information about the procedure to potential patients.
A team of biologists recently hauled in the heaviest Burmese python ever captured in Florida, officials said.
Coinciding with unrelenting cyberattacks against Ukraine, state-backed Russian hackers have engaged in "strategic espionage" against governments, think tanks, businesses and aid groups in 42 countries supporting Kyiv, Microsoft said in a report Wednesday.
NASA's first spacecraft designed to study a metallic asteroid won't be launching this year as planned, according to an announcement made by the agency on Friday.
Tennis star Osaka and her agent and business partner, Stuart Duguid, are forming a media company called Hana Kuma in partnership with The SpringHill Company, which was created by NBA star James and Maverick Carter.
Several celebrities including Viola Davis, Bette Midler and Stephen King reacted after the Supreme Court on Friday voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.
Three 'General Hospital' stars won acting honours and the soap's directing team won at the Daytime Emmy Awards on Friday night.
Statistics Canada says the number of job vacancies at the beginning of April hit just over one million, up more than 40 per cent compared with a year earlier.
Despite record low levels of unemployment, many sectors are suffering from labour shortages in the second quarter with restaurants and hotels continuing to be amongst the worst hit, a new Statistics Canada survey finds.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade, corporate giants from a range of industries pledged to provide support and financial assistance for employees — and, in some cases, their dependents — seeking abortions in states that outlaw the procedure.
A new painting of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was revealed to the public on Thursday. The painting – the first official portrait of Prince William and his wife, Catherine, together – is on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, U.K.
Mounties in Coquitlam are appealing to the public for help tracking down two pieces of artwork that were allegedly stolen from a high school art display.
A bloodhound named Trumpet won the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Wednesday night, marking the first time the breed has ever snared U.S. dogdom's most coveted best in show prize.
Canadians Bennedict Mathurin and Shaedon Sharpe took very different paths to the NBA, but their pro dreams were realized just minutes apart on Thursday.
A former professional football player who was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend will not be eligible for parole for 14 years.
The Trotz Watch in Winnipeg appears to be over.
Toyota is recalling 2,700 bZ4X crossover vehicles globally for wheel bolts that could become loose, in a major setback for the Japanese automaker's ambitions to roll out electric cars.
A majority of Canadians who intend to travel this summer say high gas prices are affecting those planned getaways, a pair of recent surveys show.
Two people involved in testing for the electric car brand NIO died when one of its vehicles fell three stories from a Shanghai parking structure, the company said Friday.