Victorian investment promises increased sexual and reproductive health access

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Victorian investment promises increased sexual and reproductive health access

The Victorian State Budget delivers timely investment in healthcare with a lens on diversity. Funding towards gender-responsive budgeting measures is a welcome addition, with the potential to increase sexual and reproductive health access, equity and agency. The $3.8 billion investment in mental health is applauded, an essential investment in the pandemic context.

Marie Stopes Australia welcomes investment in 12 women’s health services, $4.1 million to establish three new women’s reproductive health hubs and funds allocated to the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health. These moves will increase access to sexual and reproductive health, and will support our ongoing work to catch-up on deferred sexual and reproductive healthcare from last year. Further investment is required in order to maintain sexual and reproductive health rights for all people in Victoria, including people on temporary visas.

At Marie Stopes Australia clinics in Victoria, equitable access to abortion relies upon regular Choice Fund donations. Every dollar donated to the Choice Fund goes towards healthcare for pregnant people experiencing hardship who cannot otherwise afford their choice of abortion care. In the pandemic the number of regular donors, philanthropists and the size of their donations have dramatically reduced meaning that it its becoming increasingly difficult for Maries Stopes Australia to guarantee subsidised access to this essential service and remain financially viable.

Last year medial abortion access was temporarily increased with Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item numbers for telehealth care. From April to September 2020, Victorian uptake for medical abortion via telehealth at Marie Stopes Australia increased by 126%. Despite calls from healthcare professionals to make these MBS item numbers permanent, at this stage they are only available until the end of 2021.

Further clarity is required as to understand how the Victorian Government will invest in equitable access to contraception and abortion care, including a renewed sexual and reproductive health plan. We look forward to meeting with the Minister for Health, Martin Foley MP to discuss how Victoria will increase sexual and reproductive health access and equity for all.

Quotes from Jamal Hakim, Managing Director

“Abortion access in Victoria is a postcode lottery. State leadership is required to ensure equitable abortion access across all metropolitan, regional and rural areas.”

“It is not financially sustainable for non-profit health providers to continue covering state government shortfalls in healthcare access, including contraceptive and abortion care for people on temporary visas.”

“Patients experiencing financial hardship rely upon regular donations to the Choice Fund. In the pandemic there have been far less donors and philanthropists willing to donate towards sexual and reproductive healthcare.”

“Temporary MBS item numbers have increased access to medical abortion in Victoria. State investment needs to complement Federal telehealth reforms to enable long term abortion access.”

“Victorian Government investment in mental healthcare is applauded. Mental health is an important part of sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing.”

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For further information or to interview Jamal Hakim contact, Marie Stopes Australia, 0428 396 391.

Marie Stopes Australia is a national not for profit provider of sexual and reproductive health services including permanent and long-acting reversible contraception and abortion care. For more information on our clinic network visit mariestopes.org.au.