Victoria’s voted down a private members bill to expand abortion access in the state. The bill was introduced by Reason party leader Fiona Patten and debated in Vic’s Upper House on Wednesday.
The gist of the bill is that it’d stop publicly funded hospitals from refusing to give people abortions. That includes religious hospitals. The bill also sought to stop publicly funded hospitals from refusing assisted dying treatments.
Now it’s worth noting here that the Vic Government has a practise of not supporting any private member’s bills in the first place. A private member’s bill is proposed legislation that’s been introduced by an MP who isn’t a government minister.
Vic Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas also told The Herald Sun on Tuesday the bill seemed to endorse funding cuts for public hospitals that didn’t provide those services.
“We are not in the business of cutting funding to public health services in Victoria — indeed the absolute opposite,” Thomas said.
“Ms Patten needs to explain to health services how she would implement these changes.”
However, Patten’s denied that would be the case.
“My bill in no way threatens the funding,” she said on Wednesday per The Herald Sun.
She said it’d be up to the Government to assess whether funding would be affected. The bill also wouldn’t have stopped individual doctors from refusing to perform abortions or assisted dying procedures.
Now that the bill’s been officially voted down, Patten said it was a loss for Victorians who may need abortion access. That’s particularly pertinent because of Roe V Wade being overturned in the US.
“Right now, woman and gender diverse people in Australia need to know that the government has their back in regards to reproductive rights and in regards to assisted dying,” she said, per The Guardian.
The Victorian Greens Parliamentary Leader Samantha Ratnam — who voted for the bill — said people should be able to access free abortions at all publicly funded hospitals.
Very pleased to speak in support of @FionaPattenMLC’s bill today.
In the wake of Roe v Wade being overturned, it’s more important than ever that women & gender diverse people everywhere are able to access abortions at *all* publicly funded hospitals.
They should also be free.
— Samantha Ratnam (@SamanthaRatnam) August 17, 2022
But in Parliament, Labor defended its existing abortion laws.
“Victoria is Australia’s most progressive state when it comes to women’s rights and access to reproductive choices,” said Parliamentary Secretary for Health Nina Taylor, per The Guardian.
Abortion laws vary state to state in Australia. It’s also rarely completely free — if you can access the public health system, Medicare usually covers some but not all of the costs. And it’s even more expensive in the private system.
“If you go through the public health care system, you can get a fully publicly funded abortion,” Children by Choice CEO Daile Kelleher told 9News.
“Doesn’t always happen though.”
While abortion’s been decriminalised in Victoria since 2008, it’s taken other states a far longer time to catch up. For example, it was only decriminalised in NSW in 2019. And pretty shockingly, South Australia only decriminalised abortion in 2021.
There’s no question that reproductive rights are essential health care — but whether abortion will become more accessible for Aussies is still unclear.