Calls for greater access to safe abortion in Tasmania following private abortion clinic closure in Hobart

Calls for greater access to safe abortion in Tasmania

Tasmania’s primary private abortion clinic is closing its doors due to decreased demand, sparking concerns that women seeking a surgical abortion will be forced to travel interstate.

Specialist Gynaecology Centres owner Dr Paul Hyland said the combined effects of increased access to contraception and medical abortion through online self-referral providers such as the Tabbot Foundation, and rising costs, had caused the decision to close his clinic in Hobart.

It follows the closure of Dr Hyland’s abortion clinic in Launceston in 2016.

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Bastian Seidel said there were no Tasmanian public funds available for medical or surgical terminations, meaning women needing surgical abortions would have to fly to Melbourne.

A private clinic in Hobart still offers surgical abortions at a higher cost making it unfeasible for many women.

Dr Seidel said no political party in Tasmania had committed to funding accessible abortion within the state’s public health system, and Health Minister Michael Ferguson could immediately provide such access.

Mr Ferguson said he was aware of the clinic’s “sudden closure” and that the Health Department was investigating alternative options.

Deputy Opposition Leader Michelle O’Byrne said an elected Labor government would be aware of the need to work with private and public specialists to resolve the issue.

“We should all be concerned about how this limits the options for women,” Dr Seidel said.

“There’s no public funds here, whether that’s for medical terminations or surgical terminations.

“For women where medical terminations are not appropriate or not desirable, or where the woman chooses a surgical option, of course that’s no longer available in Tasmania and that means people have to find their own interstate solution.”

Dr Seidel said the RACGP wanted to see more Tasmanian GPs trained up in the safe administration of medical abortions to increase safe, local access for women.

Medical abortions involve the use of two tablets, which can be provided over the phone through the Tabbot Foundation or Marie Stopes at an average cost of between $250-400.

Another option could be for the Tasmanian Health System to cover the cost of transport and surgical procedures for women needing to travel interstate for a surgical abortion, Dr Seidel said.

Mr Ferguson said any women with concerns were encouraged to speak with their GP.

“The issue is being handled at an operational level by health experts, as it should be, not by me as Minister,” he said.

Ms O’Byrne said the Health Minister had been warned when clinics closed in Moonah in 2014, and Launceston in 2016, that women needed public health access for abortions abortions.

Ms O’Byrne said Labor’s legislative changes in 2014 had paved the way for safe abortion access for women.

“The Health Minister should have been providing public access to terminations already, he now has no other option than to ensure this takes place,” she said.

“At each point when one of these facilities has closed, the Health Minister has been warned that he would need to find an avenue to ensure that women could access this service.”