Forced travel for abor­tions

Spike in de­mand at in­ter­state clin­ics

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWSFRONT - EMILY BAKER State Po­lit­i­cal Re­porter

NEW fig­ures re­veal the num­ber of Tas­ma­nian women trav­el­ling in­ter­state for sur­gi­cal abor­tions has in­creased six­fold in the year since the state’s only low-cost provider shut its doors.

The Marie Stopes data, pro­vided to the Mer­cury, comes af­ter Health Depart­ment sec­re­tary Michael Per­van said the re­place­ment ser­vice’s open­ing was “im­mi­nent”.

The State Gov­ern­ment and Mr Per­van have re­peat­edly blamed a de­lay in the new clinic open­ing on ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the provider and the fa­cil­ity. It was sched­uled to open by the end of last month.

“The provider met with the sur­gi­cal fa­cil­ity in Ho­bart yes­ter­day, and is work­ing to as quickly as pos­si­ble fi­nalise ar­range­ments,” Mr Per­van said yes­ter­day.

Marie Stopes fig­ures show about 125 Tas­ma­nian women had sur­gi­cal ter­mi­na­tions with the not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion to No­vem­ber this year, in stark con­trast to the 20 who trav­elled to its main­land clin­ics for the same pro­ce­dure last year.

Marie Stopes chief ex­ec­u­tive Michelle Thomp­son said it was cru­cial women were told who was pro­vid­ing the new ser­vice in Tas­ma­nia to en­sure they knew how to get help.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Per­van, the name has been with­held at the re­quest of the provider.

Ms Thomp­son said: “Given that women have had to wait for more than 10 months and have been treated like sec­ond class cit­i­zens, the very least the gov­ern­ment can do is tell them who will be pro­vid­ing this im­por­tant ser­vice.”

Newly elected Ho­bart City Coun­cil al­der­man and abor­tion cam­paigner Holly Ewin yes­ter­day ac­cused the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment of in­ac­tion driven by “ide­ol­ogy and not giv­ing a shit about women and women’s health”. “I’ve got close friends this has af­fected who have had to travel and it’s made their lives in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult,” Ald Ewin said.

Op­po­si­tion health spokes­woman Sarah Lovell noted it had been 314 days since Tas­ma­nia’s low-cost ter­mi­na­tion provider closed its doors and she called for abor­tions to be pro­vided in pub­lic hos­pi­tals.

Health Min­is­ter Michael Fer­gu­son said he had been told the new ter­mi­na­tion clinic, un­der­stood to be based in the South and to be of­fered by a fly-in, fly-out provider, would open by the end of this year.

He said Ald Ewin’s com­ments were “not a help­ful con­tri­bu­tion” and la­belled al­lu­sions to his per­sonal views on abor­tion “cheap shots”.

“The gov­ern­ment’s been act­ing re­spon­si­bly and we have clear ad­vice about the ap­pro­pri­ate way to step for­ward in this,” he said.

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