When it comes to Tasmania's abortion provision, the biggest news is that there is no news.
The last dedicated provider of surgical abortions shut up shop in Launceston in 2016. The last provider in the state followed suit in December 2017. We are now in 2020, and a sustainable solution has not been found.
In November 2018 the government announced that low-cost abortions - low cost meaning $475 - would be available for Tasmanian women through undisclosed doctors, referred to by GPs and health services.
This was supposed to be a temporary solution while the government negotiated with a more permanent provider. Yet over a year later it is still the system in place, and the government does not seem to see finding a more workable solution as a matter of particular urgency.
There is no other state or territory in Australia where the names of abortion providers are not publicly known. In every other state and territory, a woman who needs or wants an abortion is able to walk into a clinic that she already knows the name of, book an appointment, and have the procedure. In Tasmania, she must negotiate a tangled process veiled in unnecessary secrecy when time is of the essence - a surgical abortion is only legal to 16 weeks of pregnancy.
At the moment, these undisclosed private doctors surgeries are providing surgical abortions at $475 - a significant reduction on the $2,500 it previously cost in the private health sector. It has now emerged that the cost shortfall is being absorbed by doctors, not the government. At least, that's what Labor says, and the government has not denied it.
It's just the latest development in an ongoing saga that needs to be resolved.
The state government's reluctance to work to provide a sustainable surgical abortion option made sense when the Health Minister was conservative Michael Ferguson, who was personally opposed to abortion for religious reasons. Now, the health ministry is overseen by a moderate - and Minister for Women - Sarah Courtney.
It's time that she solves this problem.
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