The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Thursday became the first Australian jurisdiction to guarantee free abortion care.
The new policy allows women living in the ACT to obtain abortion up to 16 weeks gestation. The ACT government noted that cost was a significant barrier to safe and legal abortions in the state. In a press release, the government said, “Making these services free for all ACT residents, including those without access to Medicare, gives pregnant people greater ability to make their own decisions about their healthcare.”
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said, while the policy is a step forward for Australian reproductive rights, more work still needs to be done concerning access. “The ACT Government will continue to engage with service providers, including general practices and our non-government community partners, as we work to expand services across the ACT,” said Stephen-Smith.
Sexual Health & Family Planning Executive Director Tim Bavinton also welcomed the announcement, saying:
Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT (SHFPACT) welcomes these next steps to deliver on the ACT Government’s budget commitment to improve abortion access in the Canberra community, and we look forward to working with government, NGOs and other primary health care providers and services to ensure timely and equitable access to abortion and long-acting reversible contraception options.
The free services are part of the ACT government’s commitment of $4.6 million over the next four years and follow an ACT Legislative Assembly inquiry report examining the experiences of those seeking the abortions in the ACT.
The inquiry report made 18 recommendations, including free access, resources for post-procedural support and mental health support. The report also suggested the publishing of medical data surrounding reproductive coercion in the ACT.