Access to pregnancy terminations limited in Tasmania

Australian Greens leader Richard di Natale says if Tasmania will not fund abortions publicly, the federal government should.

Mr di Natale spoke on the issue on a visit to Hobart on Tuesday, on the same day Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Pilbersek was in the city to announce the party would provide $1 million for a reproductive services hub to provide the procedure if it won government next year.

“People are appalled that in one of our states, women are not getting access to safe terminations,” he said.

Under Labor’s plan, the federal arm will pay for capital works for the new centre and share in the estimated operational costs of $180,000 a year.

Labor Leader Rebecca White said the hub would provide access to the public health system for abortion procedures and a standalone service to assist with other reproductive health issues and information.

There have recently been issues with women accessing surgical abortions after the state’s sole private provider withdrew services.

As abortion drug RU486 is only effective in the first nine weeks of gestation, Labor has said women have been forced to travel interstate for a surgical procedure; sometimes at a cost of up to $2500.

But Health Minister Michael Ferguson has maintained there were now two surgical abortion providers in Tasmania and access to the service was available through general practitioners and women’s health services.

“It’s not the fact that Tasmanian women have to fly interstate but what we have done is provide support for women who choose to,” Mr Ferguson said.

“There was a period where a private provider had withdrawn and there were no other surgical options, that’s no longer the case.”

He denied his moral and religious objections to the procedures influenced his party policy on abortion services.

Greens leader Cassy O’Connor has previously expressed support for publicly funded abortion services.