AUSTRALIAN women would have greater access to cheaper contraception and publicly funded abortions under a federal Labor government.
This news comes after an anti-abortion group, known as 40 Days For Life, were given a permit to pray outside a Marie Stopes’ clinic in Perth, and the Nanyara clinic in Rivervale for Lent.
If it wins the upcoming election, Labor will use funding deals with states to make clear it expects abortion services to be widely provided in public hospitals.
And it would look at letting women get three-year prescriptions for the contraceptive pill, instead of having to see their doctor every eight to 12 months and make sure cost isn’t behind the slow uptake of long-acting removable contraceptives such as Implanon or intrauterine devices.
Anti-abortion group to pray in Perth for Lent
The group 40 Days for Life will pray from 7am to 5pm each day for 40 days.
The Perth based branch of the pro-life movement claims to have prevented 14 mothers from pursuing an abortion during previous campaigns.
It has been reported that doctors and nurses working at the Marie Stopes clinic have started wearing body cameras to deter protestors.
The group believe that “abortion is an injustice not only against the unborn but also against women” and that women are manipulated into choosing abortion.
Australian woman should be able to access health services in the place and time they need them
The Labor government wants women to be able to access abortions at public hospitals as an alternative to clinics like Marie Stopes and Nanyara.
“Our laws have to reflect the majority view that a woman who wants to use contraception, or wants to end an unintended pregnancy, has the right to do that in a way that is legal, safe and affordable,” Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek said in Sydney on Wednesday, noting that 80 per cent of Australians supported women’s right to choose.
“A third of Australian women live in a state where abortion is still illegal. I think most of them would be surprised to know that.”
At the moment, a patchwork of service provision leads to some women turned away from public hospitals when they need to end a pregnancy and then not being able to access or afford to go to a private clinic, or having to travel hundreds of kilometres for care.
“We wouldn’t accept someone having to travel that far for a hip replacement or a broken bone. Women deserve better,” Ms Plibersek said.
Labor would also review the Medicare rebate associated with doctors providing medical terminations using RU486.
Only about 1500 of Australia’s 35,000 GPs are registered to prescribe the drug and it costs women an average $600 for the appointments and tests needed, Labor says.
Labor to work to decriminalise abortion
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was disappointed Labor had released this policy “on the eve of an election in a very politically charged context”.
Abortion provision was a matter for the states and he believed the commonwealth should keep away.
“I don’t find that debate one that tends to unite Australians and I certainly am not going to engage in the political elements of that discussion because, frankly, I don’t think it is good for our country,” he told reporters on Christmas Island.
However, it was welcomed by women’s health advocates, who have been pushing for a national approach to reproductive rights for decades.
Labor’s announcement comes as anti-abortion activists start a 40-day prayer vigil for Lent outside a Marie Stopes clinic in Perth.
The Human Rights Law Centre, which is campaigning for safe access zones outside clinics, says past vigils have included activists shouting abuse at staff, stopping patients and staff when they try to enter, and handing women rosary beads, baby booties and leaflets that contain medically misleading claims.