Northern Tasmanian women are facing emotional and financial burdens when it comes to accessing surgical abortions - and in 2021 this simply isn't good enough.
It wasn't good enough this time last year when it was revealed that the cost shortfalls associated with the procedures were being absorbed by doctors, not the government.
It wasn't good enough in 2018 when the government announced that low-cost abortions - low cost meaning $475 - would be available for Tasmanian women through undisclosed doctors, referred to by GPs and health services.
This was supposed to be a temporary solution. Now, more than three years on - has anything changed?
There is no other state or territory in Australia where the names of abortion providers are not publicly known. Yet in Tasmania, the procedure is shrouded in secrecy - a trait that only adds to the stigma of something that is a legal right.
If a Northern Tasmanian woman wants to have a surgical abortion, she must travel to Hobart. This will typically involve two nights away from family, friends and support networks. Not to mention time away from work.
When Tasmania's last private abortion clinic closed in 2017, the state government introduced a patient transport assistance scheme to help cover the costs of travel. Again, this was supposed to be a temporary measure. Since then we have been promised permanent solutions, but they haven't come.
The government says it's committed to ensuring Tasmanian women are able to access the full range of women's health service. But where's the proof?
Data shows that 50 per cent of pregnancies in Australia are unplanned. The issue is far from black and white. For instance, we know many women who choose to have an abortion are already mothers. The old stereotype often associated with abortions, of young woman who don't use contraception, is tired and quite simply - inaccurate.
As pointed out by Family Planning Tasmania recently, while the infrastructure exists for women to access surgical terminations - a legal right under the Reproductive Health Act 2013 - sadly this is not the reality for most Launceston women.
There has been some progress in this space in recent days, with the Health Department confirming that a pathway for GPs and prescribed health providers to refer vulnerable women seeking a surgical termination in the north to the Launceston General Hospital, is expected to be finalised next week.
All women deserve clear and accessible pathways for abortions, no matter where they live. Tasmanian women deserve a permanent solution to this issue.
What do you think? Send us a letter to the editor:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.