SINCE ABORTION WAS DECRIMINALISED IN 2019, ABORTION IS STILL INACCESSIBLE TO MANY
Today in Parliament, Amanda gave a speech about how largely inaccessible abortion services are for so many people in our state.
In 2019 this Parliament took the historic and long-awaited step of removing abortion from the Crimes Act. At that time I was working as a GP in Albury-Wodonga on the border of New South Wales and Victoria prescribing medical abortion up to nine weeks gestation. I wrote to members of Parliament then about the experiences of my patients who were, and still are, forced to travel hundreds of kilometres across rural New South Wales, away from their family and support networks, interstate to access abortion services.
I am raising the issue because in the four years since abortion was decriminalised in New South Wales, so little has changed. Abortion may be legal in this State but it is certainly not accessible. Though the Minister for Health has announced an audit of the availability of abortion services offered by public hospitals and service pathways in New South Wales, the findings will be what advocates, clinicians and people with lived experience of navigating the so-called system have been saying for years—that abortion services are largely operated by private providers, often at high cost to patients, and that local referral pathways are variable and fragmented.
Now that abortion is correctly regarded as a health service, it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that it is available and accessible without financial or geographic barriers. That was acknowledged by the recent Federal Senate inquiry into reproductive health. Australian Clinicians for Choice, a voluntary group of health professionals, have put forward straightforward solutions. This Government must act to ensure that first trimester surgical abortion is provided at all public hospitals, as is the case in Victoria. First trimester surgical abortion, from a practical and technical perspective, can easily be provided in any small hospital that can safely manage a miscarriage, and medical abortion can be safely prescribed by GPs and even using a nurse or midwife‑led model of care.
Approximately 10 per cent of Australian GPs are registered to prescribe medical abortions. Approximately 10 per cent of Australian GPs are conscientious objectors. What about the remaining 80 per cent? In the current environment, those GPs are required to undertake additional training unpaid and in their free time. We must support GPs to become medical abortion prescribers, not burden them, to provide comprehensive reproductive health care to people in the community from a provider they know and trust. Finally, we must ensure that conscientious objection, which is an important provision under law, is only exercised as intended: by individual practitioners and not by whole departments or organisations. We must do that because reproductive health care is health care. Abortion is health care.
Read the full Hansard transcript here.