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Marie Stopes searches for ‘brave’ philanthropists to pay for abortions

Sigrid Firth Media

Kate Aubusson, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 September 2017

Marie Stopes Australia is searching for “brave philanthropists” to bankroll a $3 million fund for women struggling to afford abortion and contraception.

The not-for-profit plans to use its new tax-deductible gift recipient status to set up two separate funds to pay for pregnancy terminations and contraceptive services for women in financial hardship who can’t pay for private clinics.

Abortion is a crime in NSW and only permitted when a doctor deems a woman’s physical and/or mental health is in serious danger if her pregnancy continues.

Publicly funded abortion services are not available in NSW, Queensland, the ACT and Tasmania. Limited services are available in other states and territories including a handful of public hospitals in Victoria.

Marie Stopes Australia hopes its fund will also cover transport and accommodation costs, particularly for women in rural and remote areas where services are scarcest.

Its contraception fund would target women queuing on often lengthy public hospital waiting lists for long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs).

Chief executive Michelle Thompson said the organisation was searching for pro-choice backers committed to universal access to reproductive services and addressing inequality in Australia’s healthcare system.

“We want to work with innovative, brave philanthropists and foundations to remove the financial barriers to contraception and abortion,” she said.

Ms Thompson said she was expecting the usual backlash against moves to improve access to abortion.

“But it’s about giving women choices … women who are in abusive relationships, a young woman with an unplanned pregnancy who wants to go on to complete her studies, or a mother who struggles to support her family.”

Dr Philip Goldstone treats patients who have overcome immense pressures to access reproductive services at his clinic in Westmead.

“We know poorly educated or women from [lower socio economic backgrounds] are disproportionately affected by unplanned pregnancy,” said Dr Goldstone, the medical director at Marie Stopes Australia.

“These are the women who have the largest barriers to access our services.”

The average cost of a medical or surgical termination in Australia is $500.

“This is a vast amount of money for a lot of women, and often an unexpected cost that you don’t have a lot of time to save for,” Dr Goldstone said.

Eloise Noske said she knew she was one of the lucky few who got an abortion through the public system.

The 23-year-old spent several weeks considering her options, talking to a counsellor and her family.

“I’ve always been a maternal person and there was a lot of grief for a potential child I was saying no to,” she said.

“Once I’d made the decision I sat with it for about a week. I wanted to make sure it was right for me and not for anyone else.”

The university student living on a youth allowance in Melbourne was referred to The Royal Women’s Hospital.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and I can’t imagine how I would have coped with the added stress of worrying about how I would pay for it,” she said.

Had Ms Noske been living in her rural Victorian hometown her options would have been limited.

“I would have had to pay for travel and the cost of an abortion at a private clinic. My GP was a good family friend so it would have been difficult to do it without the fear of judgment,” she said.

Marie Stopes Australia is also planning to set up a third fund to support reproductive health research and education, particularly the uptake of LARCs.

If you would like to know more about these philanthropic funds, please drop us a line at donate@mariestopes.org.au