Nationally, Australia does not have equitable or accessible laws and systems when it comes to abortion care. This causes a lot of unfairness and confusion. A lot of media coverage is focussed on the service system gaps that exist in mainland states, particularly in Queensland, Victoria and NSW.
However, Tasmania is being touted nationally as an example of good practice in terms of abortion care, thanks to the new abortion referral pathways introduced in October 2021, and the existence of the Women’s Health Fund and Youth Health Fund to assist people with the costs if they are in financial difficulty.
Many of the media articles about abortion access in Australia are incorrect and out of date – especially those which make reference to Tasmania. Please double check facts with service providers before using those sources.
Here are four key facts:
- The right to an abortion is enshrined in the law of every state of Australia except Western Australia. This is because of the work over decades of committed activists, health workers and politicians. It is even part of the National Women’s Health Strategy (developed by the Morrison Government) to ensure equitable access to abortions across Australia.
- We have a different history, health and legal system to the USA.
- In Tasmania abortion is legal and accessible.
- There are medical and surgical abortion care services available in each Tasmanian region and cost should not be a problem. (Surgical abortion in Tasmania is free through the public hospital system. Funding is available to cover the cost of a medication termination.)
Would you like to know more?
- Surgical abortions are available from public hospitals in the south, north and north west. This service is available for all pregnant people (you don’t have to be considered ‘vulnerable’ to be eligible.) This service will not cost the patient anything.
- If there is a reason why someone can’t access a surgical abortion from a public hospital in their region they can have the procedure from a doctor in the private health system. This will not cost them anything.
- Medication abortions can be accessed from a GP (who has done the specialist training), from GPs working at Family Planning Tasmania and from a mainland provider via telehealth.
- Medication abortions might have costs associated with them. There is financial assistance available.
Private health insurance
- If a patient has private health insurance, they can access an abortion from a private provider using their insurance. If they can’t use their private health insurance (eg a family violence situation) they can be a public patient.
People without Medicare
- If a patient doesn’t have access to Medicare because of their visa status, they can be helped with the cost of either a medication or surgical abortion.
And a few more facts
- Tasmania also has best practice around conscientious objection; it is the law that GPs who don’t provide abortions must give patients information about services that can give people information about their choices.
- And Tasmania has best practice around the protection of pregnant people and health workers: it is the law that people cannot harass or protest within 150 metres of an abortion care service.
These 'facts' are being circulated on social media in Tasmania – they aren't true
People have to have counselling before you have an abortion. Not true. But if someone would like to have it, it is free, non-judgmental, and confidential.
Patients must get a doctor’s permission to have an abortion. Not true - if the pregnancy is less than 16 weeks gestation it is your decision alone. (But the patient does need to see a GP to get the pregnancy confirmed.) It is possible to get a referral for an abortion after 16 weeks in certain circumstances.
Let’s be clear: up to 16 weeks, it is an individual’s decision, not their doctor’s, whether they have an abortion. Our rights are protected in law and there are accessible health services in Tasmania that provide abortions. Financial and other support are out there, including if someone needs an abortion after 16 weeks.
We are not complacent about our access to abortion services but there is no 'access crisis' or 'access debate' in Tasmania. The fight to get these services has been won. We will be vigilant in ensuring we keep them.
If you have questions about any of the facts above, please contact Women’s Health Tasmania (03) 6231 3212 or Family Planning Tasmania (03) 6273 9117.
Please remember that incorrect information about abortion access frightens people who are looking for abortion care today.