Abortion is one of the most common medical procedures that Australian women will experience in their lives. But our patchwork of abortion laws and holes in service provision mean more and more women are having to travel interstate.
Labor’s addition of the drug RU486 to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule in 2013 has improved access to medical terminations. But medical terminations are only available up to nine weeks and are not always the best option for the patient. Women should have the choice of medical or surgical termination.
At the moment there are many barriers to accessing both medical and surgical options. Location, cost, and the law are some. Depending where a woman lives, she might come up against all three. Roughly 80 per cent of terminations are done in private clinics. There are substantial gaps in public hospital provision. The availability of surgical terminations continues to be an issue for women in rural and regional areas – no matter which state they live in.
And there’s another major issue – the ridiculous situation where abortion is a crime for half the women in Australia, but not for the other half. This is because abortion is still in the criminal code in Queensland and NSW.
It’s time for the federal government to show leadership and step up so that women can access the health care they need – wherever they live.