ACT leads on free universal abortion access

2 minute read

The territory is the first Australian jurisdiction to offer medical and surgical abortion services to all residents.

All ACT residents can now access medical and surgical abortions up to 16 weeks’ gestation free of charge, regardless of whether they have a Medicare card.

The ACT government confirmed last month that it had committed $4.6 million dollars to fund the services over the next four years, after announcing that it would remove all out-of-pocket costs for abortion services in August 2022.

MSI Australia has partnered with the ACT Government to offer both services free of charge at its clinic in Canberra. Long-acting reversible contraceptives will also be offered free of charge to patients accessing abortion services.

While free medical abortions will be made available at select GP clinics in the coming months, negotiations are currently being held around expanding the scheme to other providers, according to the government’s website.

Previously, patients could access medical abortions up to nine weeks’ gestation through a trained GP, MSI Australia or via telehealth services, with costs ranging from $200 for GP clinic visits to $590 for private clinics for those with Medicare cards.

Surgical abortions were available up to 16 weeks’ gestation through MSI Australia, with patients charged upwards of $650 and as high as $8000 without a Medicare card.

The announcement follows national calls from women’s health advocates and peak industry bodies such as the RACGP, for the government to expand PBS subsidies to include all long-acting reversal contraceptives.

In its submission to the senate inquiry into universal access to reproductive healthcare, the RACGP urged the federal government to subsidise all contraceptives, as well as raise Medicare rebates for IUD insertion and increase the quantities of contraception pills that could be dispensed.

Professor Sue Matthews, CEO of the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, and head of the hospital’s abortion and contraceptive services unit Associate Professor Patricia Moore also emphasised the importance of removing barriers to long-acting reversible contraceptives access and use in Australia in their submission to the inquiry.

Earlier this year, MSI Australia’s subsidiary MS Health also lodged an application with the TGA to remove existing barriers preventing more GPs from prescribing medical abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol (MS-2 step).

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