Gippsland women lack abortion access

Gippsland Women's Health study researchers. photograph supplied
Gippsland Women's Health study researchers. photograph supplied

A Gippsland Women's Health study has revealed women in Gippsland have limited access to abortion methods.

The study's preliminary findings, which were released recently, showed that of 30 general practice clinics across Gippsland that completed the survey, 12 clinics offered medical termination and 16 offered surgical termination or a referral.

The study also found 40 per cent of clinics that did not provide medical termination referred women to services in Melbourne, while 50 per cent of clinics who did not provide surgical termination also referred women to services in Melbourne.

The study contacted 23 GP clinics in Latrobe City, however, only five clinics responded, revealing only one clinic provided medical termination of pregnancy and no clinics provided surgical termination or referral.

Gippsland Women's Health have contacted GP clinics that did not respond to the survey again, with a goal of achieving at least a 50 per cent response rate of clinics in each local government area.

Gippsland Women's Health health promotion project worker Anna Roberts said anyone should be able to go to the GP and receive a full suite of health services.

"If a woman cannot access a termination in her local area she would need to travel elsewhere, most likely the city, which could mean additional cost financially and time," she said.

"She may need to take time off work and/or organise childcare for existing children.

"The delay could mean she may be further along in her pregnancy by the time she is seen by a doctor who offers the service.

"A medical termination is time-sensitive. If she is more than nine weeks she would need to have a surgical termination. This could mean additional costs for travel, accommodation as well as the need to have a general anaesthetic, a longer recovery time and the need for support."

Ms Roberts said women disproportionately carried the burden of unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. "Women should have the right to choose if, when and how they have children," she said.

"They should have access to education and information about their body and their options, modern contraception and safe abortion.

"A doctor can be a conscientious objector to providing a termination. However, under Victorian law, a health practitioner who has a conscientious objection to providing abortion information must refer any woman seeking information about abortion services to another doctor who doesn't object."