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  • Monique Srikijroj

Australia Still Has A Long Way To Go When It Comes To Abortion



The overturn of Roe. V Wade has sparked conversations across the globe about the legality and importance of abortion.


Much of these conversations overlooks the gaps and challenges present in Australia.

Only recently has abortion been made legal across all states and territories, with South Australia being the last jurisdiction to legalise it only twelve months ago.


While legalising abortion may be a huge step in the right direction, there are still many hurdles present in gaining access, especially for marginalised communities.


 

Abortion affordability is a challenge many face across Australia.


With the essential service often being offered privately, the average upfront cost can start at $300.


Without an item number specifically for the provision of abortion on Medicare, it greatly reduces the viability of the service being offered.


These hurdles affect lower income earners and the Indigenous communities the most.


Researcher Maryanne Cleetus, from UQ’s School of Public Health, says she's extremely concerned Queenslanders are self-harming as a result of a lack of access to affordable termination services.


"The effect of these barriers was extremely concerning – some clients said they had considered using unsafe termination methods or had undertaken self-harm,” says Cleetus.


Across Australia's capital cities, protesters took to the streets in support of those in America. Source: Nine

Majority of campaigns to access abortion in Australia have been focused on changing the law and not enough focus on accessibility and affordability issues.

Australia’s unique geographical situation further contributes to accessibility issues.


Abortion access becomes a postcode lottery for many of the regional and remote communities.


With those in rural and remote communities having to travel the extra distance, this furthers the expanding health gap within our country.


“We need accessible abortion services throughout the state… all health practitioners across WA need to know where they are, how to support people to get there and how to have social services that can support women to get that care,” says Marie Stopes International Australia head of policy, Bonney Corbin.


“For a GP in regional WA, sitting in front of a single mum who has transport issues and is experiencing financial hardship, maybe the closest abortion provider is 400km away,” says Corbin.

The legality of abortion is also often misunderstood.


In Western Australia, abortion is legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, yet it still remains in the criminal code.


Gestation limits also differ in jurisdictions, causing further confusion.


"Some GPs you walk into and ask about abortion, or for information on access, you can get looks," says Children by Choice chief executive Daile Kelleher.


"We hear that people have been told abortion wasn't legal and they can't access it," says Kelleher, "that has huge impacts for people's ability and confidence in asking another GP."


With every state having different abortion regulations, it can be confusing for people seeking the essential service. Source: KIN Fertility


Currently, abortion provision and training is not mandatory for Australia clinicians.


Another major barrier to accessing abortion is that only ten per cent of GPs are registered to provide this type of care.


This number decreases heavily in rural and remote communities.


There have also been instances of people in the healthcare industry choosing not to provide patients with abortion information.


Reportedly abortion information and options have not been provided to patients due to stigmas and personal beliefs.


Monash University Research Fellow in Global and Women's Health, Dr Shelly Makleff, says she's heard stories from patients calling their GP office and the receptionist not letting them talk to their GP about options regarding their pregnancy.


 

Following the shocking overturning of Roe Vs Wade in the US, it may seem that Australia is further ahead on abortion care, but accessible and affordable abortion is still a significant barrier for people across Australia.


Abortion needs to be more affordable and accessible for people in Australia, particularly for those in rural communities.


Additional to funding, abortion provision training should be more encouraged, especially for Indigenous health workers and rural and remote midwives, pharmacists and OBGYNs.


Decriminalisations and campaigning for better access is a start in the right direction for better abortion access.


 

Cover Image Source: The Guardian

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