Tasmanian lawyer Susan Fahey has launched a scathing attack on the government for “re-stigmatising” abortion and penalising women who live outside Hobart.
The blast comes as Premier Will Hodgman conceded that a new low cost abortion provider, promised to be up and running in October, had not yet found suitable premises.
Mr Hodgman said he hoped the new service would begin in Hobart before the end of the year.
“That is certainly our hope within that time frame,” he said.
Ms Fahey, the head of the Women’s Legal Service, agreed with the Labor Party that terminations should be provided in the state’s public hospitals.
“For many, many years we have worked to try to de-stigmatise abortion and in the last 12 months this government has re-stimgatised it – we’ve sent our women away like it is something shameful,” she said.
“What we’ve seen here is a really deliberate attempt to cast shame and stigma on women who need to access this very common and much needed procedure.
“What’s really shameful is how long the government has taken, the policies and procedures they’ve put in place and what looks like a very deliberate act to not actually deliver these services to women.”
Ms Fahey said that after leading Australia on abortion law reform Tasmania was “being laughed at again” over the issue.
She said people living outside Hobart should not be forced to travel to the capital when abortions could be done in hospitals across the state.
“If you’re travelling from Smithton or Scottsdale or Bicheno you’re looking at overnight travel, petrol and if you are in a family violence situation you can’t just disappear for the day without there being questions asked,”Ms Fahey said.
“I’ve heard many stories of women who have had to travel by bus from Launceston, and further afield, to Hobart and they are harrowing.
“It is an absolute disgrace, a cruel and shameful policy, that punishes women who live outside Hobart who should be able to access this service in our hospitals.”
Ms Fahey said society “will be paying” the cost for women choosing to go ahead with unplanned pregnancies because it was too hard to travel and get a referral from a GP.
Labor’s health spokeswoman Sarah Lovell said the government needed to tell Tasmanian women when the new provider would begin.
“The government has for 10 months now forced women to travel interstate – at huge cost and considerable inconvenience – to access safe and legal services,” Ms Lovell said.