In March 2019, we published an article relating to the promise made by the Labor Party around abortions in public hospitals. In this promise, if they win government on May 18, they intend to make abortion services widely available in Public Hospitals throughout Australia, both in major cities and rurally.

The Labor Party made a pre-election promise on March 6 that, upon a Labor election, it intends to provide public hospital access to abortion, as well as improved access to certain contraceptive products for Australian women.

According to Labor’s pledge, public hospitals will be required to consistently offer abortion services to Australian women in order to qualify for Commonwealth funding under a federal Labor government.

Currently, fewer than ten percent of abortions in Australia are undertaken in public hospitals, and the procedure is regulated by the states and territories. While the proposal to provide improved access for abortions in public hospitals might sound good on paper, the reality is more complex and in many respects, this proposal is simply a tactic to encourage Australian women to elect Labor on May 18. The feasibility of providing abortions in public hospitals must be questioned for a number of reasons.

The Logistics of Abortion in Public Hospitals – Does It Add Up?

There are a number of reasons why the Labor election promise to offer abortion in public hospitals does not add up.

Surgery for public patients in public hospitals entails waiting lists. These lists are already extremely protracted. Abortion is a time-sensitive and emotional procedure, requiring to be performed prior to twenty weeks’ gestation (in New South Wales) at the latest, and most women present before the end of the first trimester (before 13 weeks). Hence waiting for an abortion in a public hospital is not feasible for women both practically and psychologically.

Current hospital surgery waiting lists are excessive and public hospitals struggle enormously under the weight of their current workloads. Adding public abortion services to this workload is not sustainable in any aspect. The operating waiting lists are bursting at the seams already and that is without providing tens of thousands of abortions, should Labor win the election. Patients will be kept waiting for weeks and may have their procedures cancelled at the last minute. This means that women will have to wait an inappropriate amount of time before their abortion, which is psychologically disturbing plus have the added problem of advancing gestation, making the procedures more difficult.

Abortion in public hospitals requires trained and experienced medical staff being willing to provide the service. In smaller rural hospitals, this may be a bigger issue than in large city hospitals.

Additionally, abortion requires specific medical training, experience, specialisation, and expertise. It must be carried out by a doctor specifically trained in termination of pregnancy procedures and it is a much more complex procedure than a dilatation and curettage (D&C) procedure carried out following a miscarriage. As a public procedure in a public hospital, women must expect that junior surgeons and even trainees under some level of supervision may perform their procedure. This is not best practice. Let’s not go back to the bad old days, where abortion was performed by untrained people. Abortion currently is a very safe procedure and is in fact 11 times safer than natural childbirth. This positive statistic has taken decades of education and training in proper abortion care to get to this point. Now the Labor government wants to put women in the hands of junior doctors who are learning “on the job” and have little or no experience. This is a potential situation to bring back clandestine abortions.

There are approximately eighty thousand abortions performed every year in Australia. With public hospital access, this number could well be significantly expanded. It is absurd to believe that public hospitals will be able to cope with this added volume of surgical patients.

The promise by Labor to provide public hospital abortions is ultimately unsustainable and may even put some women at risk.

Abortion Services at Gynaecology Centres Australia

Abortion is an essential healthcare provision. Like all other healthcare services, Australian women should be able to access abortion locally and at an affordable price, knowing they are in the hands of the very best, specialised and highly trained medical professionals.

This is what we offer at Gynaecology Centres Australia.

Contact Gynaecology Centres Australia

Gynaecology Centres Australia is a confidential provider of first-trimester abortion services. To learn more or for advice relating to our abortion services and our clinic locations, please contact us. Find a clinic location near you via our contact page here.