Abortion may be legal in Australia, but accessing it is another matter. The last specialist clinic in Tasmania has shut down, leaving women in Tasmania with curtailed choices.
There is now only one place in the state which will perform second trimester abortions – for $2,500, and with only part time availability. This appalling state of affairs is the responsibility of health minister Michael Ferguson – a man who described the safe, cheap abortion pill RU486 as “a drug which will allow the death penalty to be imposed on unborn babies”.
The Tasmanian Health Department has allowed women who now have to travel interstate for an abortion to access funding to offset the cost of travel. This is a second-rate option.
It is not only more logistically difficult and stressful; the scheme also has strict regulations about who can access it and for what. Patients still have to contribute to the flights and accommodation, and the Health Department requires the patient to attend the nearest centre that provides the service. Only people under 18 are guaranteed support for someone to travel with them.
The clinic shut down because it wasn’t profitable enough to stay open. The Liberal state government has let three clinics shut despite the decriminalisation of abortion in Tasmania in 2013. Decriminalisation was a genuine victory, but legal wins are hollow without real access.