Fears of abortion cost rise

THE cost of getting an abortion in Tasmania could increase by more than 60 per cent when abortion-drug RU486 becomes available in the state.

Specialist Gynaecology Centres doctor Paul Hyland said demand for medical terminations could force the clinic to lift the charge for surgical terminations by up to $200 to cover costs.

The drugs that trigger a medical termination of a pregnancy, mifepristone and misoprostal, were added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme yesterday and will retail for about $37.

Dr Hyland said the clinic was not yet able to administer the drug but was seeking accreditation.

He said some medical terminations were already provided in Tasmania but the drugs were not as effective.

RU486 may be used to terminate a pregnancy up to seven weeks' gestation.

After that time surgical terminations are required. 

There is no legal upper limit on abortion in Tasmania, but clinics do not operate after 14 weeks. 

The Reproductive Health Bill, which is awaiting a Legislative Council inquiry later this month, proposes consent-only abortions up to 16 weeks and abortions based on an assessment of risk factors after that.

Surgical terminations at the Launceston and Hobart clinics now cost about $300 plus a $150 Medicare rebate.

But Dr Hyland said that price would have to increase to up to $500 to cover costs, once the medical termination service reduced demand for surgical terminations.

``This is a hospital, and hospitals are expensive to run,'' he said.

``We have been providing a very cheap service in the past and it's barely making any money.''

Dr Hyland said medical terminations using RU486 were an ``administrative nightmare'' for clinics because they had to follow-up with patients two weeks after the treatment to make sure it had worked.  He said the counselling and approval process was the same, no matter how the pregnancy was terminated.

Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne said adding the drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme was a ``positive step for women,'' but did not decrease the need to reform Tasmania's abortion laws.

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