Provision for abortion delayed in Australian state

Pregnancy test Credit Ernesto Andrade via Flickr CC BY ND 20 CNA 5 11 15 Ernesto Andrade via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Government authorities in the Australian state of Tasmania have promised that low-cost surgical abortion will be provided starting in October, but general practitioners and the state's Women's Legal Service say they have not been provided any information on who the provider will be and how abortions will be delivered, according to local media reports.

The state's only dedicated abortion clinic closed in late 2017 due to declining demand for surgical abortions, ABC news reported.

At the time, Tasmania's primary abortion doctor cited medical abortion, which is allowed in the country up to nine weeks of pregnancy, and increased use of contraception as reasons for the drop in demand for the surgical procedure.

The state had been paying for women to travel to other Australian states to have abortions since the clinic's closure. The Tasmanian health department said it had reached an agreement with a new abortion provider and reportedly signed a five-year agreement with the as-yet undisclosed provider in July.

Bastian Seidel, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, told ABC News that no information from the government about how the procedures would be delivered had yet been passed on to general practitioners. Susan Fahey, Women's Legal Service chief executive, also expressed frustration that the government had so far provided so few details.

Under Tasmanian law, women are allowed to choose abortion up until 16 weeks of pregnancy, and after 16 weeks must seek the approval of two doctors before an abortion is allowed. Doctors are allowed to conscientiously object to the procedure, but are compelled by law to provide "provide the woman with a list of prescribed health services from which [they] may seek advice, information or counselling on the full range of pregnancy options."

Tasmania's current Health Minister, Michael Ferguson, voted against the liberalization of the country's abortion laws in 2013.

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