Speaker Sue Hickey has supported the government on abortions

The Speaker of the House of Assembly, Sue Hickey, has voted with the government on the provision of abortion services in Tasmania.

Ms Hickey supported an amended motion on terminations put forward by Health Minister Michael Ferguson.

It was a significantly watered down version of Labor’s motion, which had been supported by the Greens, and would have directed Mr Ferguson to provide pregnancy terminations in the public hospital system by July 1. 

It was a win for Mr Ferguson and bitterly disappointing for deputy Labor leader Michelle O’Byrne who moved the motion.

Ms Hickey had the casting vote after it was tied 11 all.

“With the indulgence of the house on this historic occasion I wish to just clarify my reasoning,” she said.

“I will be casting my vote with the ayes for the reason that this motion allows the delivery or the potential delivery of statewide surgical terminations in the public and or private system from July 1.

“The previous motion did not have statewide so I think this is a broader approach so hopefully we can see it implemented.”

The new motion called on the Government to provide advice from the Department of Health and Human Services, following consultation with relevant stakeholders including the Royal Australian College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, general practitioners and other stakeholders on the provision of adequate resourcing to deliver statewide surgical terminations in the public and/or private system by 3 July 2018.

Ms O’Byrne had argued that all women, not just the privileged who could afford it, should have access to terminations in public hospitals and not be forced to travel interstate.

She told the story of a woman who had travelled to Victoria for a termination which had cost $2750 and how “alone and ashamed” the woman felt.

“It’s not about Labor versus Liberal, or progressive versus conservative, it is about accessing a service in the least traumatic way,” Ms O’Byrne said.

Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said women accessing abortions in public hospitals was a legal and human right.

“Women who have to go interstate feel like the system is punishing them,” she said.

Health Minister Michael Ferguson said it was a highly political motion moved by Labor.

“The house doesn’t have the power to direct a minister to act in a particular way,” he said.

“Public hospitals are there to save lives.”

Mr Ferguson said the department was negotiating with a private clinic to provide a visiting service to Tasmania to perform terminations.