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Correcting Abortion Misinformation

Sam Wilde Abortion, Equity and access, Media

Scaremongering About Abortion Should Not Be A Federal Election Tactic

With a Federal election two days away, inflammatory and misleading material has appeared throughout electorates, and online, about abortions in Australia.

The majority of Australians, 70.5% according to the ABC’s Vote Compass, believe abortion should be more accessible, so the views expressed in the distributed material are not in line with community expectations.

However, as a national not-for-profit provider of sexual and reproductive health including abortion care; and as an organisation that works with Australians faced with unplanned pregnancies; and as an organisation made up of leading sexual and reproductive health experts, Marie Stopes Australia believes that we need to address these outlandish and harmful claims.

Claim: 37 Weeks Gestation – Late Term Abortions up to birth for any reason will be legal around Australia.

Reality: This statement is completely untrue and unfounded. Each state and territory has their own laws and regulations that determine gestational and other limits that are placed on the provision of abortion. To say that an announcement about funding public health access to abortions will result in terminations up to 37 weeks for any reason is nonsensical.

In terms of second and third trimester abortions, there are a number of reasons that someone may access them. Data from our Choice Fund that assists women to access abortions up to 24 weeks, has shown that the type of reasons for abortions include fetal anomalies, health issues and complex psychosocial issues including family violence and sexual assault.

Third trimester abortions are incredibly rare and for exceptional medical reasons. Further, most abortions are performed in the first trimester (under 12 weeks), and third trimester abortions are very rare and would only be performed for exceptional circumstances.

Claim: Your tax Dollars will be paying for all abortions even late-term abortions of healthy babies of healthy mothers

Reality: Between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 women will require an abortion at some stage in their lives so abortion care, like many other sexual and reproductive health services should be available in the public hospital system.

The reality is that access to abortion care in Australia is predominantly through private and not-for-profit clinics, with the exceptions of South Australia and parts of Western Australia, where it is available via a hospital or hospital referral. When it comes to third trimester abortions, they are extremely rare and for exceptional medical reasons so the claim about ‘healthy babies of healthy mothers’ shows a clear misunderstanding of the conditions under which a third trimester termination would take place.

Claim: It will be a public health disaster if hospitals are forced to perform abortions

Reality: In many parts of Australia pregnant women are cared for in both our public and private hospital system, regardless of whether they have an ongoing pregnancy, abortion or still birth.

The uneven access to abortion care across the country is actually the public health issue that needs to be addressed. Currently access to services depends on your postcode. Should abortions be available through the public hospital system it would provide women with equal access to abortion care across the country.