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Safe Reproductive Health Services for Women in Tasmania

[5.17 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Madam Acting President, what a terrible decision for someone to have to make. Although abortion was decriminalised in Tasmania in 2013, elective surgical and medical abortions are again unavailable through the state's public health system. This is because Tasmania's only public surgical abortion clinic closed late in 2017, due, we were told, to increasing costs and significant decrease in demand. I am advised the decrease in demand was because of the medical abortions.

In 2000 there were 25 to 30 surgical terminations a week in the Tasmanian clinic, with two to three people a month travelling to Melbourne for the procedure. There are now 10 to 12 in the same period. I note the Leader mentioned that there are two private clinics, or doctors, in the south, but in Launceston there are two Catholic private hospitals. I am a Catholic and I have issues with this - but it is up to individuals. It is a terribly hard situation for those people to have to make. Obviously there is nothing available in the north.

The Government is offering financial assistance to women to travel to the mainland to have a surgical abortion. I have to ask: Why? Is it about capacity in our hospitals? They are providing a public service. If they are providing a public service to go to the mainland, I cannot understand why they are not providing a public service in a public hospital.

As has been said, this is not about the rights or wrongs of an abortion. It does not matter what I think people should have or what anyone else thinks people should have. This debate is about everyone having access to safe health services in our state public health system. I am concerned that people are travelling to the mainland on their own. I cannot imagine how these people feel. If they have to go alone and have such an awful thing happen, such a difficult decision, and to be alone and then to have to come back. To me, that is not a safe health service for them. If they are in their own state, at least they could have someone supporting them. I do not know the reasons for their decision to have this procedure. I am sure many of them suffer beforehand and I know a lot of them suffer afterwards. It is a terrible thing; I cannot imagine how dreadful it would be.

Mr Finch - When somebody goes over there for that procedure, did someone say there is a requirement for them to stay in -

Ms Forrest - No, not stay in the clinic. It is only a day procedure; it is quite a quick procedure in many respects. Some may choose to travel home or some may choose to stay in Melbourne overnight. It depends on the clinic and it depends on the individual patient.

Ms ARMITAGE - I am not going to go on for a long time because much has been said. To me, it is not about the right or wrong of abortion - we are not debating that at all today. It is about equity of access to our public hospital system to support women. I cannot imagine how terrible it must be for someone to be in that situation. I hate the thought of them having to travel to the mainland, maybe on their own, to make what must be the worst decision of their lives.

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