Stigma, Limited Pregnancy Care May Force Int'l Students in Australia to Choose Abortion & University Dropout

pregnant woman

Due to the inability to get good care during pregnancy, international students in Australia might have to quit university, end pregnancy, or be forced to work inappropriate jobs, experts say.

Individuals on student visas do not have access to Medicare, Australia’s health insurance scheme, which guarantees healthcare for Australian people. As an alternative, students should pick up an overseas student health cover (OSHC), which is a type of cover that international students must have during the course of their education in the country, reports.

According to Study Australia, the government's resource for international students, the cover includes visits to the doctor, some hospital treatments, limited medicines, etc., but it doesn’t include pregnancy care. As a result, experts say that those who get pregnant are left with two choices: go back to their home country or remain in Australia but with no prenatal care.

Speaking to The Guardian, Alison Coelho, a public health advisor and the co-chair of the International Students Sexual Health Network (ISSHN), said that besides several other things, international students face stigma around unwilling pregnancy and appear skeptical to access university health services. The situation, according to her, will worsen when their working hours are capped.

“When you cap their hours, what are they [going to] do? It’s going to be dealing in sex work,” she said. “We’re affecting their future, their lives, their careers,” Coelho told the newspaper.

The Guardian further reports that International Students Sexual Health Network and other advocates have insisted on a Senate inquiry for universal access to reproductive healthcare, demanding a better deal for students.

International students made a remarkable contribution to Australia’s economy last year. Universities Australia, the peak body representing the country’s higher education providers, said that education added more than $29 billion to the economy in 2022, with $25.5 billion deriving from international students and the remaining $3.5 billion from those studying online.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said that international students in Australia who come from more than 144 countries make a powerful contribution to the country and additionally help Australia strengthen relations with other important friends.

“In the last month alone, nearly 80,000 students have come to Australia – more than double the number who arrived in the same period last year. We have work to do, but the progress to date is good for universities, Australia and the economy more broadly,” Jackson said.

Australia was the choice of 360,358 international students for higher studies last year, the majority of whom were from China, followed by India, Nepal, and Vietnam.

>> Universities: Int’l Students Should Be Motivated to Stay in Australia, Not Deterred

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