Labor Just Promised To Provide Free Abortions If Elected. Here’s Why That’s So Important.

They also want to make contraception cheaper and more accessible.


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Good news for anyone with a uterus: the Labor Party just announced a plan to overhaul reproductive health services in Australia if it wins the federal election, including making free abortions available in public hospitals.

The $9.3 million plan, announced by Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek today, would make it much easier for Australians in every state to access reproductive healthcare when they need it. The plan aims to make taxpayer-funded abortions available in public hospitals around Australia, and to make it cheaper and easier to access contraception ranging from the pill to IUDs.

The exact changes that would be enacted under the plan are still up in the air at this stage, but so far Labor has announced that it will pursue a range of options to increase access to abortion, including making the availability of abortions in public hospitals a key part of hospital funding agreements, and working with the states to help get abortion decriminalised where it’s still illegal. The idea is to make sure that affordable abortions are available in a range of locations around the country, so that people no longer need to pay hundreds of dollars and travel for hours — even interstate — to get an abortion.

As for making contraception cheaper, Labor plans to review the Medicare rebate for long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) like IUDs. It also plans to look into options like introducing a three year prescription for the contraceptive pill, like the one available in New Zealand.

“Reproductive choice and access to basic health care are fundamental rights,” Plibersek said when announcing the plan today. “Every Australian woman should have access to the health services they need, where and when they need them.”

What Does This Mean In States Where Abortion Is Still Illegal?

Of course, abortion laws differ wildly in different states, and in NSW and South Australia abortion remains illegal unless doctors have identified a serious health risk to the mother or child. The federal government can’t just step in and override that, which makes Labor’s plan to make abortion available in public hospitals difficult in these states.

Speaking on ABC radio this morning, Plibersek explained that the plan is to work closely with state governments and negotiate to reach a system that makes reproductive healthcare more accessible to anyone who needs it. So no, there’s no guarantee that abortion will become legal in all states if Labor wins the federal election, but there is a promise from federal Labor to try to move decriminalisation forward.

“At the moment we have a situation where Tasmanian women are flying to Victoria if they need a termination,” Plibersek told the ABC. “We have got a situation in New South Wales where women are having to drive for hours and hours to get from a country town to a major city to get a termination in a private clinic, and that might cost them thousands of dollars.”

“This is a very difficult choice for a woman to make. To make it even more difficult, by saying you’ve got to find thousands of dollars of money to go to a private clinic, or you have got to go interstate, is just not fair, at such a difficult time.”