The first public hearings for the Federal Senate Inquiry into universal access for reproductive healthcare begin this afternoon in Lismore.
Abortion access in Australia is a postcode lottery with women and pregnant people forced to travel long distances and pay significant out of pocket costs for abortion care.
Managing Director Jamal Hakim said it was critical that Federal Government invest in abortion care at the national level.
“When the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in America, eliminating the longstanding constitutional right to abortion, it had ramifications here in Australia,” he said.
“It really highlighted the ongoing abortion access issues in Australia and the need for national taskforce to address abortion inequities.
“The 2020 National Women’s Health Strategy committed to universal abortion access with bipartisan support but sadly, little investment has occurred to date.
“We need this to change. Abortion is healthcare and women and pregnant people should have access in the communities they live in, without needing to travel long distances or spend exorbitant amounts of money.
“This inquiry was instigated by Senator Larissa Waters in September last year and we welcome the public hearings.
“Public hearings give our Federal MPs and Senators from all sides of parliament the opportunity to hear directly from people who have accessed services and who work in the sector.”
Deputy Medical Director Dr Catriona Melville said she regularly saw patients from Northern NSW at MSI Australia’s Brisbane clinics.
“Women and pregnant people in the Northern Rivers have no choice but to travel to Brisbane to access surgical abortions,” she said.
“Abortion in NSW is legal up to 22 weeks’ gestation but there is little to no financial support for women to access services in NSW, particularly in regional and remote areas.
“Women and pregnant people shouldn’t have to travel and pay significant out of pocket costs to access a surgical abortion.
“There needs to be more investment in abortion care and we hope that this inquiry leads to more funding for abortion provision including MBS item numbers and workforce training.”
Medical Director Dr Philip Goldstone said women and pregnant people in NSW regularly came to MSI Australia after being turned away from public hospitals.
“Unfortunately decriminalisation didn’t mean abortion care became embedded and funded in the public healthcare system,” he said.
“Not everyone has access to abortion and contraception services due to financial hardship and other barriers to healthcare such as homelessness, mental health issues and sexual and family violence.
“Women and pregnant people continue to fall through the gaps which is why we started the Choice Fund, which provides financial support to people who need it.
“Every week, we have women in NSW requesting assistance through the choice fund because they are turned away from public hospitals.”
There are currently three public hearings:
- In Lismore, the hearing will run from 1.30pm – 4.45pm today 21/2 at Southern Cross University in East Lismore (program of speakers and submissions can be read here.)
- In Brisbane, the hearing will run from 1.30pm – 5pm tomorrow 22/2 at Royal on the Park, Brisbane City (program of speakers and submissions can be read here.)
- The Canberra hearing will be next Tuesday 28 February, with MSI Australia addressing the hearing from 10 – 10.45am.
The Australian Abortion Access Scorecard can be viewed here. View a summary of State and Territory abortion laws here.
Women and pregnant people can book a teleabortion here.
Donate to the Choice Fund to support people experiencing financial hardship or other barriers to abortion and contraception care here.
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For further information contact Anna Jabour on 0428 396 391.
MSI Australia is the only national not for profit provider of sexual and reproductive health services including permanent and long-acting reversible contraception and abortion care. For more information on our clinic network visit msiaustralia.org.au