Public hospitals across Australia will have to agree to offer taxpayer-funded abortion services under a newly announced commonwealth funding agreement, should Labor win the election.
If voted into power, Labor has pledged that women will no longer have to seek out private clinics to end their pregnancies and could even have greater access to contraceptives.
For years, women have been forced to fork out massive amounts of money for the procedure or travel hundreds of kilometres for a service where it’s legal and available. Labor have now promised to change the rules for good, with a review into the Medicare rebate associated with medical terminations to address affordability issues too.
The party also claimed they will attempt to make progress to decriminalise abortion. Currently in New South Wales it remains a crime while in South Australia women can still be charged for “unlawful” abortions.
In the announcement on Wednesday, Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek said now is the time to create change, claiming “choosing to terminate a pregnancy is difficult enough”.
“Forcing a woman to travel long distances or interstate to access surgical services can dramatically increase the emotional and financial burden,” she said in a statement.
“We wouldn’t accept someone having to travel that far for a hip replacement or a broken bone. Women deserve better.”
Also as part of the agreement, Labor will launch an investigation of arrangements in New Zealand, where women can be provided with a three year prescription for the contraceptive pill from the doctor. This will include a review of the Medicare rebate for long-acting reversible contraceptives, to make sure that cost isn’t a barrier.
The Studio 10 hosts weighed in on the announcement on Wednesday morning with some, including Angela Bishop, highlighting her concerns with the potential changes.
Voicing her opinion on the matter, the reporter claimed although the contraceptive pill has many benefits, a script for that long could prove problematic.
“The pill, while terrific, can have serious side effects in that it can lead you to have an increased tendency to have strokes and so forth,” she said on the show.
“The reason it is on a prescription as often as it is, is so you can get your blood pressure checked, so you can check whether you’ve started taking any other medication and check what else is going on in your life, which over a three year period may change.”
She added: “That’s a bit of a health concern for me”.
However, others including the Australian Women’s Health Network (AWHN) have praised Labor for its plans, claiming it will “make a significant difference to the health and wellbeing of Australian women and their families”.
“It is so refreshing to hear these critical women’s issues spoken about clearly and publicly,” AWHN National Board Chair Marilyn Beaumont said in a statement.
“We commend Labor leader Bill Shorten for his commitment to protecting the reproductive choice and health rights of all women across Australia that has been denied to them for too long.”
The next Commonwealth-state hospital funding agreement is due to begin in mid-2020 and run until 2025.