Greens to set up Senate inquiry into abortion and access to contraception in Australia
The Greens have set up a new Senate survey to find out how easy or difficult it is for people to access abortion services and contraception in Australia, especially those living in regional and remote areas.
- Greens say government could do more to cover personal expenses
- The survey will also look at access to sexual and reproductive health care more broadly.
- Concerns have been raised over the spread of unofficial birth control advice on TikTok
The Senate voted in favor of Greens spokeswoman Larissa Waters’ motion on Wednesday afternoon to create the inquiry, with a report expected in late March 2023.
She said the idea for the survey came about following the cancellation of Roe v Wade in the United States.
“Of course the legal system is different, but it was about access…and it got us thinking about the ability of Australian women to access reproductive health care and that’s not great,” said she declared.
“Particularly in regional and rural areas, it costs a bomb and you often have to travel hundreds of miles to get basic health care.”
Senator Waters said reimbursing women for out-of-pocket expenses was one change the federal government could make.
“How can [the government] help coordinate and ensure that states essentially harmonize so that no matter where you live, you get the same quality of health care,” she said.
“Some of the levers that the federal government could pull are to make sure that public hospitals offer medical abortions and surgical abortions, there are potential funding levers that they could say unless you provide that health service basic, you won’t get the feds dollars.”
Senator Waters said the inquiry, announced on International Safe Abortion Day, would also be tasked with looking more broadly at how to increase access to other reproductive health care like contraception.
Four in 10 unintended pregnancies, report says
The decision to set up the inquiry comes on the same day that a report on the impacts of unwanted pregnancies was published and delivered to parliament.
The report, commissioned by global healthcare company Organon, which makes a number of contraceptives, found that 40% of pregnancies were unintended.
Of the women who had unwanted pregnancies, 31% terminated the pregnancy.
Professor Danielle Mazza from the Center of Excellence in Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Research in Primary Care, said there were a number of issues around access to abortion in the Australian region.
They understand the urgent nature of eligibility for medical abortion, which involves taking a prescription drug, and the lack of trained GPs.
“It remains a fact that many rural and regional areas across Australia do not have GPs who provide this service,” she said.
Professor Mazza said she would welcome any process that sheds light on access issues and provides concrete policy solutions.
“So knowing that it is important to focus on training and supporting practitioners, increasing women’s knowledge and understanding of the services available to them, and looking at the costs women face and the solutions potential policies to that,” she said.
The report also estimated that the cost of unwanted pregnancies in 2020 was $7.2 billion, with most of the cost – 56% – borne by women, 37% by the government, 3% by employers and 5% per home help.
Direct costs included out-of-pocket expenses and government subsidies through Medicare and hospital funding, while indirect costs included child care subsidies, child care expenses, parental leave payments, and lost time. salary.
Professor Mazza said the findings highlighted the need to ensure women know about and have access to the contraception that is right for them.
Concerns about TikTok videos
Professor Mazza and Senator Waters have both urged people not to take advice from people on TikTok and other social media sites about whether or not to use contraception.
There are thousands of videos and posts on TikTok and Instagram of people enjoying the benefits of non-hormonal birth control or “natural birth control”.
Professor Mazza said it was crucial for women to find a contraceptive option that worked for them, but it was frustrating to see people taking advice from strangers that may not be evidence-based.
“Like a lot of things going on in the world right now, people aren’t listening to evidence or can’t access science-based information,” she said.
“I think when we talk about health issues, women’s sexual and reproductive health in particular, we have to consider that the information provided by medical professionals is probably more evidence-based than what is found on TikTok by social influences and the two don’t necessarily have the same truth.”
Senator Waters said access to contraceptive information would be part of the investigation.
“It would be very concerning if people got their health care information from TikTok…let’s make sure this survey can find out what barriers are preventing people from getting the information they need on a medical basis so that can make the best choices for themselves,” she said.