Victoria expands abortion services to more public hospitals to improve accessibility
The Guardian Exclusive: Hospitals in Melbourne’s eastern and western suburbs, and the Mornington Peninsula, will now offer surgical terminations.
On Wednesday the state’s health minister, Mary-Anne Thomas, will announce that three more hospitals – based in Melbourne’s eastern and western suburbs, and in the Mornington Peninsula – will offer surgical terminations.
Every day Carolyn Mogharbel takes calls from distressed women facing hours-long journeys to Melbourne in order to access a surgical abortion.
Surgical procedures were mostly available in urban areas, meaning those from the outer suburbs and regions faced increased costs to cover travel, accommodation and time off work.
“We hear from people every day who have to travel often several hours to be able to access what is standard reproductive health care,” Mogharbel said.
On Wednesday the state’s health minister, Mary-Anne Thomas, will announce that three more hospitals – based in Melbourne’s eastern and western suburbs, and in the Mornington Peninsula – would offer surgical abortions.
Eastern Health has begun offering surgical termination services, with
Peninsula Health and Western Health to follow in the coming months. Combined, the three health providers service almost two million Victorians.
The announcement comes as this month the government marks 15 years since the decriminalisation of abortion and eight years since the introduction of safe access zones around clinics.
Under the reforms, Victorian women can access abortions up to 24 weeks. Beyond 24 weeks, a medical practitioner can provide an abortion if another medical practitioner agrees that it is appropriate.
Thomas said this latest step would mean fewer women would have to travel to the city for safe and accessible abortion services.
“Undertaking any medical procedure can be a stressful experience, and with improved access across Melbourne, more women will be able to access this critical healthcare option at their local hospital – ensuring they are closer to the support of friends and family, while also reducing the cost and time of travel,” she said.
Mogharbel welcomed the announcement.
“If there’s now a service in Frankston, that will mean – for someone living further down the peninsula – that will be a one-hour journey rather than two hours, which will bring down the cost of travel, as well as knock-on costs such as childcare and accommodation,” Mogharbel said.
She said public hospitals were one of the only health services that either fully bulk-billed surgical abortions or charged lower fees, with most services provided by GPs, private clinics and specialists costing between $600 and $900.
This is in addition to the cost of a GP visit for a referral and other tests that are required before a termination.