Forced travel for abortions
Spike in demand at interstate clinics
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.