A parliamentary inquiry into reproductive healthcare has concluded that access to abortion remains a “postcode lottery”. Yet the federal Labor government is refusing to make sure that public hospitals provide abortion services.
Despite calls from medical practitioners for abortion to be made universally accessible, Health Minister Mark Butler has ruled out any return to Labor’s 2019 position, which promised to provide abortion services in all hospitals.
“That was a policy at an election some time ago. It’s not our policy now”, Butler told a press conference in late June.
Abortion in Australia remains inaccessible and unaffordable. Sixty percent of abortions in NSW are surgical, yet according to the most recent data from NSW Health only 0.7 percent are performed in public hospitals. Decriminalisation over the last few decades has not resulted in free, widespread, easy to access services. Years on from decriminalisation in NSW, the two public hospitals that perform abortions continue to turn women away, including those seeking help for complications from medical (via pills) abortions.
“It should be free and safe for everyone, no matter where you live”, Jess Scott Hayes told the Sydney Morning Herald in March. Jess had spent $700 and waited weeks in a state of limbo trying to find a clinic that would terminate her unwanted pregnancy.
Simplified access to medical abortions was one of the key recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry the Greens initiated after the overturning of the Roe vs Wade decision. This decision by the US Supreme Court, in June 2022, overturned abortion rights which had been enshrined since the 1970s.
A second option is via abortion pills. The pills are cheaper, viable for pregnancies up to nine weeks and can be performed at home. Only 10 percent of GPs and pharmacists in Australia, however, are licensed to prescribe the pills. Abortion accessibility will improve somewhat from August 1 with the decision by the Therapeutic Goods Association to remove additional certification requirements needed for licensing.
In the United Kingdom, the proportion of women opting for the abortion pill has increased to nearly 90 percent in the last decade. But the decision is often related to cost, rather than preference or health considerations.
Ultimately however, Australian Labor, governing federally and in all states except Tasmania, is responsible for the limited access to abortion. Surgical abortions should be freely available, both within and outside the nine-week period.
Women should have the right to whatever treatment is preferable to them without financial or geographical barriers—barriers that could be alleviated immediately by the federal government.
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The level of suffering in Gaza is more than the human mind can comprehend. As the war enters its twentieth week, it feels increasingly obscene to be going about daily life while an entire people are being systematically destroyed, their lives, histories and culture blown to pieces or buried under rubble.
The Banyule Palestine Action Group has collected more than 600 signatures on a petition calling on Banyule City Council, in Melbourne’s north-east, to pass a motion supporting an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in line with motions passed in other councils across Australia.
Asked how she stays hopeful as a 63-year-old socialist and Palestinian living in the diaspora, Reem Yunis replies: “I don’t have the luxury not to be inspired. My grandparents died without seeing a liberated Palestine, my parents died and were buried in the diaspora. Most of my people are living in the diaspora, and the ones in Palestine are being robbed of water, resources and every bit of land they have. We need to have hope and fight, because if we won’t fight for a free Palestine, who will?”
Human Rights Watch, an international investigative and reporting organisation, says that it has “significant human rights concerns” about Australia’s treatment of refugees and Aboriginal people.
To drive a whole people out of their land—to turn it into something akin to the Zionist myth of Palestine, supposedly “a land without a people for a people without a land”—requires many things. Most obviously, it requires the killing and terrorising of Palestinian people on a colossal scale.