It has been announced, in news released in Australia on March 6, that the Labor government has made a pre-election promise to deliver enhanced, tangible support of abortion services for women in public hospitals throughout the country.

As part of its National Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy, which was also released on March 6, the Labor Party has pledged to work further towards the decriminalisation of abortion in New South Wales, to bring the state into line with the legislative changes implemented in Queensland in 2018. Access to certain contraceptive products will also be improved for Australian women under Labor’s proposal.

It sounds like a huge step forward. It’s true that the expansion of contraceptive options and availability, including better access to long-acting contraceptive devices, is a great thing for women in Australia. Additionally, complete decriminalisation of abortion in NSW is a very positive step forward and will bring NSW into line with the rest of the nation. However, the announcement of Labor’s proposal for public hospitals to widely offer free abortion services needs to be understood for what it is: a clever but undeliverable ploy to encourage women to vote for Labor at the next election.

Abortion in Australia

There are approximately 80,000 abortions performed in Australia annually, with the vast majority of these (more than 90%) being performed in the private health sector in clinics such as Gynaecology Services Australia.

According to statistics provided by Children By Choice:

  • Half of all pregnancies in Australia are unplanned
  • One-quarter of Australian women will access abortion services during their reproductive years.
  • Surgical abortion is partly rebatable under Medicare
  • Medical abortion (medication-based) is partly Medicare rebatable
  • In NSW, abortion is currently considered “lawful” if the doctor believes it is necessary for physical, mental, or psycho-social issues.

Labor’s Proposal

Labor’s proposal has a number of parts attached to it.

It will facilitate a review of Medicare rebates for abortion services and associated costs (medical appointments, blood tests, scans) in order to address issues of affordability and access to terminations.  Currently, many women must travel long distances (and even interstate) to access safe abortion services – which significantly increase the financial burden of termination, not to mention exacerbating its emotional ramifications.

This Labor plan is far-reaching and, not surprisingly in an election year, comes in contrast to the widely-held perception of the Coalition being resistant when it comes to women’s issues such as reproductive rights and abortion in particular.

Labor’s proposal aims to:

  • Decriminalise abortion in NSW
  • Review the Medicare rebate for long-acting reversible contraceptives
  • Improve access to affordable local abortion services via regulations that are tied to federal funding.
  • Implement a Tasmanian “reproductive health hub” for local terminations
  • Explore extended prescriptions for the oral contraceptive pill
  • Expand access to medical terminations
  • Provide abortions in public hospitals

What are we not being told?

Many of the abovementioned points to the proposal by Labor are a positive step forward for women, however, the promise to make abortion services available in public hospitals is unsustainable, unrealistic, and not in the best interests of women. Why?

  • Hospitals around the country are struggling to manage the sheer volume of patients requiring medical care, and with the number of abortions in Australia performed every year close to one hundred thousand, it is absurd to believe that public hospitals will be able to cope with the added volume of patients requiring abortions to be done routinely.
  • Surgical abortion is a specialised procedure, and it requires that the doctors have undertaken specific training and are both skilled and qualified to perform the procedure. The surgical abortion procedure differs considerably from the dilatation and curettage (D&C) procedure that is performed when a woman has had a miscarriage. There is potential that junior or inexperienced surgeons may perform abortions in a public hospital, which may cause an increase in the number of surgical complications.

The promise by Labor to provide public hospital abortions is a step backwards for women’s welfare, is practically unsustainable,  and is, unfortunately, a promise made primarily to get votes in an election year.

Abortion Services at Gynaecology Centres Australia

Abortion services are an essential public healthcare component. Like all other healthcare services, Australian women should be able to access this particular health service locally and at an affordable price without stigma or fear of legal consequences.

Contact Gynaecology Centres Australia

Gynaecology Centres Australia has been a confidential provider of first-trimester abortion services for more than twenty years. If you wish to learn more or you require further advice relating to our abortion services and our clinic locations in NSW and the ACT, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Find a clinic location near you via our Contact Us page.