Greens call for Senate inquiry into abortion access

The Greens will propose establishing a Senate inquiry into abortion access in Australia, looking at what can be done at the federal level to remove barriers, particularly in remote regions and areas.

Senator Larissa Waters announced the survey push on Wednesday, which also marks International Safe Abortion Day.

Senator Waters said in the wake of Roe v Wade in the United States, it is essential Australia addresses abortion access issues, calling for national consistency.

“Access to safe and legal abortion remains a postcode lottery in Australia, with different rules, costs and availability depending on where you live,” Senator Waters said on Wednesday.

“Some people have to travel for hours at great expense to access this basic health service.”

The Greens said the survey will investigate physical and financial barriers to accessing contraceptives, sexual and reproductive health care and pregnancy termination services. It will also consider how to improve the quality and availability of these services, particularly in remote areas and Australia where access is generally more restricted than in larger cities.

“In remote and regional areas, such as Townsville and Mackay, many women are forced to travel long distances at great expense to access sexual and reproductive health services, including long-acting contraception, medical and surgical abortions and counseling,” said Senator Waters. .

“Abortion remains expensive and inaccessible for many, especially those who already face enormous health care barriers, including First Nations people and people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Health Minister Mark Butler said the government was committed to looking at how it could improve access to reproductive health services, even if it didn’t. was “not on the agenda at the moment”.

“It’s a commitment in the National Women’s Health Strategy and a number of us, me, Minister for Women, Senator Gallagher, Ged Kearney, Deputy Minister of Health…have said that we are committed to this element of the Women’s Health Strategy to increase equity of access to reproductive health services,” Butler said.

“That’s not on our agenda as health ministers at the moment, we’re focused right now on COVID and some of the measures potentially going to a national cabinet through the group of first secretaries. But we are working internally on how we will move this element of the National Women’s Health Strategy forward.

Push for abortion access inquiry comes as a new report from women’s health company Organon reveals that almost 40% of pregnancies in Australia are unintended. Rural women are 1.4 times more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy, while unintended pregnancy rates are disproportionately higher among First Nations women and those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.

The report shows that $7.2 billion in direct and indirect costs were incurred in 2020 as a result of unintended pregnancies, which are classified as mistimed or unwanted pregnancies. According to Organon, the average cost of an unwanted pregnancy is $36,384.

Norman D. Briggs