Unequal Access to Maternal Health Care in the EU

05.15.2019

Primary Content

Access to quality maternal health care is a human right to which all women and girls are entitled. Regardless of nationality, ethnicity, race, or any other social, economic or political affiliation, all pregnant persons are guaranteed access to affordable and quality maternal health services under international human rights laws and standards. However, the laws and policies of many governments across the world are falling short of these obligations, placing certain groups of women at particular risk.

Our comprehensive legal and policy analysis of European Union (EU) member states sheds light on the stark health care inequities faced by undocumented migrant women, and the dearth of services and free or affordable health care available to this vulnerable population. Our latest report, “Perilous Pregnancies: Barriers in Access to Affordable Maternal Health Care for Undocumented Migrant Women in the European Union,” highlights that many EU states do not provide sufficient access to universal and equitable maternal health care services for all people living within their jurisdiction. As a result, undocumented migrant women, who are among the EU’s most vulnerable and marginalized population groups, often face a lack of access to adequate antenatal care, insufficient or substandard care, and a lack of access to affordable skilled care during childbirth.  

These inequalities not only endanger the health and lives of thousands of undocumented migrant women in the EU, they also contravene EU governments’ human rights obligations. As parties to numerous international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, all EU member states are required to eradicate legal and policy obstacles that undermine undocumented migrant women’s access to affordable health care. 

This report provides policy makers across Europe with a roadmap toward ensuring that laws and policies protect undocumented women’s health and lives and comply with international human rights laws and standards, by:  

  • Outlining the series of steps that all EU governments should take to reform discriminatory laws and policies.
  • Showcasing best practices by identifying those EU jurisdictions that have adopted laws and policies that provide for undocumented migrant women’s access to affordable maternal health care.
  • Underlining the reasons that addressing remaining inequalities is a critical step toward protecting the health of all pregnant women in Europe.

Read the full report >>