Reproductive Health Disparities Among Women Experiencing Homelessness

Authored by: Courtney Cronley , Shamsun Nahar

Routledge International Handbook of Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health

Print publication date:  October  2019
Online publication date:  September  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138490260
eBook ISBN: 9781351035620
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781351035620-36

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Abstract

In this chapter, we explore the associations between homelessness and reproductive health among women globally. Applying the theoretical framework of social determinants of health, combined with intersectionality, we argue that housing and reproductive health are intertwined human rights; housing insecurity, stemming from an insufficient supply of affordable housing and poverty, places women experiencing homelessness, particularly minority women, at disparate risk for negative reproductive health outcomes. Empirical evidence shows that women in situations of precarious housing report higher rates of unintended pregnancy, problematic pregnancies, poor infant outcomes, such as prematurity and low birth weight, higher rates of reproductive health cancers and reproductive trauma compared with women who are housed. Policy solutions must include increased access to affordable and reliable contraception and utilization of innovative and gender-sensitive models of health care to help women in situations of homelessness and severe poverty, including peer navigators and trauma-informed care. Second, expanding the supply of affordable, quality housing may protect women from entering situations of homelessness and endangering their reproductive health. Ultimately, states and governments ought to work to recognize the vulnerabilities posed by housing insecurity and enact policies that promote reproductive health equity among all women.

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