Public hospitals will have to consistently offer abortion services as part of commonwealth funding agreements under a federal Labor government.
If it wins the upcoming election, the party would also build a new Tasmanian reproductive health hub so women don’t have to travel interstate for abortions and other medical care.
And it would look at making sure the contraceptive pill, long-acting removable contraceptives, and medical terminations are more widely available to Australian women.
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek said every Australian woman should be able to access health services in the place and time they need them.
At the moment, there is a patchwork of service provision, with some women turned away from public hospitals when they need to end a pregnancy and then not being able to access or afford to go to a private clinic, or having to travel hundreds of kilometres for care.
“Choosing to terminate a pregnancy is difficult enough,” Ms Plibersek said on Wednesday.
“Forcing a woman to travel long distances or interstate to access surgical services can dramatically increase the emotional and financial burden.
“We wouldn’t accept someone having to travel that far for a hip replacement or a broken bone. Women deserve better.”
Small hospitals wouldn’t have to offer surgical abortions if it was beyond their capacity, but the Commonwealth would use its funding deals with states to make it clear it expects the service to be widely provided.
Labor would also establish an online community to support doctors providing medical terminations using RU486, and review the Medicare rebate associated with this service.
At the moment, only about 1500 of Australia’s 35,000 GPs are registered to prescribe the drug and it costs women about $600 for the appointments and tests needed, Labor says.
A new national telephone referral service will give women access to reliable information about safe, credentialed providers of termination services.
Ms Plibersek said the changes will particularly help women in country areas.
The party would look at ways to improve access to contraception, including examining New Zealand’s arrangements to allow doctors to give three-year prescriptions for the contraceptive pill.
It would also make sure cost isn’t behind the slow uptake in Australia of long-acting removable contraceptives such as Implanon or interuterine devices (IUDs).
Labor would work with state governments to decriminalise abortion across the country, instead of having the existing mixture of laws that vary between jurisdictions.
Labor’s policy to support women’s reproductive rights:
- Review the Medicare rebate for long-acting removable contraceptives.
- Therapeutic Goods Administration to advise on options to improve access to the contraceptive pill, including three-year prescriptions.
- Review the Medicare rebate associated with medical terminations (RU486) to address access and affordability issues.
- Fund an online community of practice for doctors to receive peer support, advice and connections with pharmacists and other service providers regarding providing medical terminations.
- Include an expectation for termination services to be provided consistently in public hospitals in commonwealth-state hospital funding agreements.
- Establish a new Tasmanian Reproductive Health Hub.
- Fund a national telephone referral service linking women to safe, credentialed providers of termination services.
- Progress the decriminalisation of abortion across Australia.
- Restore funding to the Australian Women’s Health Network.