If you live in Canberra, prepare to have bragging rights (for the first time ever) as the ACT is officially the first state in the country to offer free abortions.
BRB, CCing in the rest of Australia.
Under the new commitment, medical abortions will be free for ACT residents who are up to nine weeks’ gestation through Canberra’s MSI Australia clinic, while surgical abortions will be available up to 16 weeks.
You also won’t need to hold a Medicare card to access the service.
The initiative is said to cost the government $4.6 million over four years.
“We’re really proud that the ACT is becoming the first jurisdiction to provide people with free surgical and medical abortions for anyone who needs it, up to 16 weeks,” ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said.
It’s huge news for reproductive rights in Australia, with pregnant people able to access abortions without the financial stress that often accompanies the already tough time.
The initiative will also cover the cost of some long-acting reversible contraception, such as the IUD. Hell yeah.
The game-changing initiative followed an ACT Legislative Assembly inquiry report that dove into the Canberran’s struggle to access the important healthcare, with the ABC reporting that some people needed to travel all the way to Brisbane to access an abortion.
In a comment to ABC, Women’s Health Matter chief executive Lauren Anthes welcomed the government initiative, but highlighted that there’s plenty that still needs to be done to make abortion truly accessible.
Anthes has urged the ACT government to put together a strategy that would incorporate additional barriers, including stigma and reproductive coercive control.
“We also have an issue in the ACT at the moment around gestational limits, which means that women who are over 16 weeks’ gestation can’t access surgical abortions — and that is due to facility and workforce limitations,” Anthes told the ABC.
While the scheme is absolutely not perfect, it’s still a role model to other states, which are sorely lacking when it comes to abortion services.
In 2019, the Abortion Law Reform Act saw abortions officially decriminalised and allowed for up to 22 weeks’ gestation. The act finally saw New South Wales decriminalise abortion in 2019 — the last state or territory in Australia to do so.