Canberrans will now have free access to safe abortion services—what does it mean? | HerCanberra

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Canberrans will now have free access to safe abortion services—what does it mean?

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After launching an ACT parliamentary inquiry looking into the accessibility and affordability of abortion services in Canberra, today it was announced that locals will have access to safe, accessible, and affordable services.

But what exactly does this mean and how is it different from before?

Since 2002, in the ACT access to safe abortion has been legal (as long as it is provided by a registered medical practitioner). However, from early next year, all Canberrans will be eligible for free medical and surgical abortions up to 16 weeks pregnant.

According to the abortion resource page on the Women’s Health Matters website,  costs usually vary depending on the gestational stage, the clinic, and whether the pregnant person has a Medicare card, Health Care card or Pension card—ranging from $100 to $1000.

At the time of publication, the resource page states medical and surgical termination of pregnancy at Marie Stopes Canberra Clinic start from $440 in the clinic or via telehealth and start from $410 at Gynaecological Centres Australia.

Including locals without a Medicare card, and in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the 1973 decision in Roe versus Wade (which removed a woman’s constitutional right to get an abortion) and the worldwide protests that included Canberra, it’s a small step towards protecting the rights of women and people who can become pregnant.

What does it mean if I need or want an abortion? 

With the Government investing more than $4.6 million over four years to remove out-of-pocket costs by covering the gap between the Medicare rebate and the actual cost of services, according to the announcement, the idea is individuals can make a choice about having an abortion without being influenced by financial barriers.

According to Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Women Yvette Berry it also means that having an abortion can occur in a time-sensitive manner without being delayed due to an inability to pay.

“This commitment follows on other ACT Government actions to improve the rights of women in accessing abortion services, including the decriminalisation of abortion services in 2002, the banning of protestors in 2016, and legislation to improve access to medical abortions in 2019,” she says.

People accessing abortion services will also be able to receive free long-acting reversible contraceptives at the time of abortion—which has been shown to reduce demand for the services. The funding will also have another role: supporting the development of communications to improve awareness of those services.

According to Women’s Health Matters CEO, Lauren Anthes, “It is important for everyone who cares about bodily autonomy and reproductive justice to continue pushing for universal, affordable access to abortion.”

“We welcome this funding initiative to support anyone to access free surgical abortion within the existing gestational limits in the ACT,” she says.

“Timely access is vital as services become more expensive and harder to access over time. This funding will help people access surgical abortion as soon as possible.”

What if I need a late-term abortion? 

A spokesperson for the ACT Government advised that those seeking late-term abortion services will most likely need to travel interstate due to gestational limits in the territory. Those seeking a late-term abortion should contact the clinics in the ACT region.

As the ACT Government begins works with service providers to cover the out-of-pocket costs for people accessing services in the ACT, the work is expected to be completed during the first half of 2023.

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