Sans-Papiers, Sans-Santé: A Study of Undocumented Migrant Women’s Access to Reproductive and Obstetric Health Care in Switzerland

Author(s) : Sarah Kinch

Source :


« In recent years, Switzerland has seen increasing numbers of foreign-born residents, making it one of the many countries affected by the European Migrant Crisis. Of these newly-settled migrants, many live in the country illegally, otherwise known as undocumented migrants or “Sans-Papiers.” While Switzerland grants its Sans-Papiers population a right to health, thus making medical insurance and care legal for the undocumented community, many still see increased adverse health outcomes among the population. As more than half of the Sans-Papiers living in Switzerland are female, women are therefore increasingly at risk for worse reproductive and obstetric health. This study sought to explore how undocumented women navigate the Swiss health care system, especially in terms of gynecological and obstetric services, and what barriers to care prevent them from seeking help. Specifically, access to contraceptives, abortion, STI care, prenatal and labor & delivery care, and preventive screenings were examined to determine their accessibility amongst the undocumented population. Further analysis found that fear and embarrassment within the medical system, high costs of insurance and medical services, language barriers, lack of communication and information, and discrimination all prevented women from seeking necessary care. Though Switzerland grants its undocumented population the right to insurance and care, it maintains many barriers to care that prevent Sans-Papiers women from seeking necessary reproductive and obstetric health care. »


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