Australia’s “postcode lottery” of reproductive health access is being spotlighted in the wake of the US Supreme Court overturning federal abortion rights.
The court’s decision to overturn the Roe v Wade precedent from half a century ago, that recognised women’s constitutional right to an abortion, has sparked a discussion at home.
While abortion has been partly decriminalised in Australia, laws differ between states and territories which can limit accessibility.
Abortion and contraception provider MSI Australia wants more done to secure reproductive health access for people no matter where they live.
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The non-profit’s research on abortion laws found access without risk of criminalisation is available in almost every jurisdiction, except WA.
It also found resourcing was a major issue in Australia, and provision of reproductive health services often falls to non-profit and community health providers who step up in lieu of government.
“Abortion access is still a postcode lottery in Australia,” MSI Australia managing director Jamal Hakim said.
“To end the postcode lottery we need to harmonise state and territory legislation alongside investing in universal abortion access and embed abortion care in the healthcare system.”
Federal minister Tanya Plibersek said all levels of government should work together to provide a full suite of reproductive health for women, and Australia should take a holistic approach to women’s reproductive health.
“It starts with better sex education, with young people knowing that they can say no to sex,” she told ABC radio on Tuesday.
“It goes on to much better advice and availability of contraceptives, including long-acting reversible contraceptives.”
Ms Plibersek joins Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for Women Katy Gallagher in supporting a person’s right to access terminations.
In opposition, Labor proposed a policy of Medicare-funded abortion during the 2019 election but Ms Plibersek would not confirm if that will be revisited in government.
“If you make abortion illegal or too expensive for women to access it doesn’t stop them having abortions,” she said.
“It just pushes them into unsafe, illegal, expensive terminations.”
But the federal government could provide universal abortion access by subsidising the cost, Mr Hakim said.
“Thankfully in Australia, our abortion laws are relatively secure with no threats to wind back any legislation that protects women and pregnant people,” he said.
“We can’t take this for granted and must continue work to embed abortion care.”