MSI Australia pushes for ‘national approach’ to abortion access ahead of women’s ministers’ meeting in Adelaide
Medicare rebates, public hospitals and more state funding should all be on the table to end the abortion “postcode lottery” in Australia.
That’s the argument from the national family planning organisation as it lobbies the Albanese government and the states and territories to work together to improve access to termination services.
MSI Australia is calling for a national approach to abortion care as women’s ministers from around the country prepare to meet in Adelaide on Friday.
The ministers are expected to discuss abortion access after indicating they want to see the relevant legislation streamlined and for the procedure to be made more accessible and affordable.
Abortion access is inconsistent across the nation, particularly outside the major cities where private clinics are scarce and doctors can face stigma for providing the service.
The issue has been revived following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the right to universal access to abortion, sparking a wave of solidarity protests in Australia.
MSI Australia head of policy Bonney Corbin called on the women’s ministers to confirm reproductive rights were part of the “national agenda for gender equity” at their meeting on Friday.
“State and territory government health departments and health leaders should come to the table,” she said.
“Our federal government has one of the most progressive abortion policies in our region. We have a national framework for universal abortion access this decade,” she said.
MSI Australia is the largest private provider of abortions in Australia. It also works with public hospitals to provide the service in some areas.
MSI Australia managing director Jamal Hakim said universal abortion access was “essential” and that all levels of government had a part to play.
“Regional health leadership and delivery is diverse, health regions are led by state and territory governments, and the national model needs to respond to that,” he said.
“At the federal level we need Medicare Benefits Schedule item number reviews on both medical and surgical abortion.
“But equally state and territory governments need to support funds to bridge consumer access gaps.”
The national women’s health strategy (2020-2030) names “equitable access to pregnancy termination services” as a “key measure of success”.
It received bipartisan support when it was signed off on in 2019, but MSI Australia says no action has been taken to implement the policy at any level of government.
Anthony Albanese earlier this week ruled out another plan to improve access.
The Prime Minister said on Wednesday he wasn’t considering asking public hospitals to provide abortions as part of their Commonwealth funding arrangements.
This was a key plank of Labor’s 2019 reproductive healthcare policy, championed by then opposition women’s spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek.
Health Minister Mark Butler has said he will work with assistant minister Ged Kearney and their state counterparts on improving standards of care and access.
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