Canberra Announces It Will Make Access To Abortions Free 

Under a new ACT government commitment, Canberra residents will have access to free medical and surgical abortions from mid-2023.

In light of the recent events in the United States which left the world reeling when the Supreme Court announced the overturning of Roe v Wade, focus has now shifted to our own abortion laws here in Australia. Given that those in the States have witnessed their lives immediately devastated by the consequences of abortion bans, now it appears the ACT government is doing all it can to protect those rights for its residents. 

The ACT government has announced that from mid-2023, Canberra residents will have access to free medical and surgical abortions up to 16 weeks’ gestation. The decision to remove out-of-pocket costs for abortion services will ensure that those residents who become pregnant can now “make decisions about their healthcare based on what [was] best for them and their bodies.”

As ACT Minister for Women Yvette Berry explained to the ABC, “This means that individuals will be supported to make a choice about having an abortion without being influenced by financial barriers. It also means that having an abortion can occur in a time-sensitive manner without being delayed due to an inability to pay.”

The services will extend to all residents, even those without a Medicare card. Each will be eligible to receive free, long-lasting, reversible contraceptives at the time of abortion, which the government said had been shown to reduce demand for abortions in the future. As the ABC reports, “The initiative to remove out-of-pocket costs will cost the government $4.6 million over four years and aims to improve access to affordable, accessible health services as part of the ACT Women’s Plan 2016-2026.”

Since decriminalising abortion in the ACT in 2002, the government is committed to improving access for women to safe, accessible abortion services. Because, if anything has come out of the overturning of Roe v Wade, it’s that you can’t ban abortion – you simply are putting a ban on safe abortions. As ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said, “With one in three women estimated to experience an unexpected pregnancy in their lifetime, it is essential that these services are safe, affordable and accessible, regardless of how much money you have.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Melissa Ryan, acting nurse unit manager at Canberra’s Marie Stopes clinic which is the only organisation in the ACT that provides abortions outside of the Canberra Hospital system. As Ryan explained, women need to know that their health is a priority, one the government will do all it can to safeguard and protect.

“I think, as a nation, we should be proving that we are more interested in women’s health and putting women and pregnant people as a priority.”

melissa ryan

The ACT government will work with service providers to finalise specific arrangements regarding out-of-pocket costs for abortion services and access, with the initiative expect to come into effect during the first half of 2023. 

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