Philanthropists Called to Finance $3 Million Abortion Fund For Disadvantaged Women
2 October 2017 at 1:47 pm
Marie Stopes Australia is looking for “brave philanthropists” to finance a $3 million abortion and contraceptive fund for disadvantaged women, as they call for uniform abortion access across the country.
The not-for-profit sexual and reproductive health provider will create the fund to pay for abortions and contraceptive services for those in need, which they hope will also cover transport and accommodation costs, especially for those in remote areas.
Their CEO Michelle Thompson told Pro Bono News the fund was designed to “give women choices”.
“That is particularly for women on low-income, or who are suffering from financial hardship, family violence, sexual assault and who cannot get access to abortion care, or to contraception in Australia,” Thompson said.
“We do find that there is a substantial number of women in these circumstances, because we often are asked by other providers in the sector to financially support these women to get access to abortion care.”
Thompson said they were targeting philanthropists because they offered the support for these services, which governments had not adequately invested in.
“We want to work with innovative and brave philanthropists, trusts and foundations to make the fund a reality,” she said.
“Without the support of those individuals who currently come forward to make our quest a reality, it just wouldn’t happen.
“Governments are just not investing in abortion care and contraception. Their focus is on chronic disease management.”
While the Marie Stopes’ CEO had expected backlash to the push to increase access to abortion, she said the response had been extremely positive.
“We’ve been overwhelmed with nothing but support from the Australian public,” Thompson said.
“We are amazed at how the Australian public is aware that there’s pockets in Australia that are in need of financial assistance, so that there’s equity and access to healthcare [for all].”
Abortion access for women in Australia is limited by inconsistent legislation across different states and territories.
Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT have decriminalised abortion (although there are varying restrictions based on the number of weeks pregnant), while in South Australia and Western Australia, the practice is lawful in certain circumstances but it is not completely decriminalised.
Northern Territory allows for abortions up to 14 weeks, but only if two doctors agree the woman’s physical and/or mental health is endangered, or if there is a serious risk the baby will be born with a serious “handicap”.
NSW and Queensland meanwhile, still list abortion as a criminal offence. Only in situations where a doctor believe a woman’s pregnancy poses a serious danger to her physical or mental health would it not be unlawful.
Thompson believes this inconsistency severely limits access for women, and called for uniform abortion access across the country.
“It does need to be uniform across Australia because it’s very confusing to women and the Australian public as to the legality of abortion care,” Thompson said.
“We want women to be able to get access no matter where they live. Particularly women who now find it challenging to get access in regional and remote areas of Australia. And we want women to get access to quality and safe care.”
Deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek has previously called for greater access to abortion for Australian women.
Speaking during the Emily’s List Oration in August, the Labor MP said current abortion laws were outdated.
“Having an abortion is a criminal act in both Queensland and New South Wales – that means it’s a crime for half the women in Australia,” Plibersek said.
“Our outdated laws are a serious barrier to the provision of health care and they lead to the ridiculous situation of abortion tourism.”
She said even if women could find a service that could help them, a significant barrier is that “reproductive health care can be prohibitively expensive”.
“The reality of the situation is that if you’re a middle class woman from a relatively privileged background living in a capital city, maybe you’ll agonise over the decision, there will be barriers and stigma around you getting an abortion, but you’ll probably be able to get one if you need to,” Plibersek said.
“If you live in a rural or remote area, if you’re experiencing poverty, if you don’t speak much English, if you’re young… it’s going to be a whole lot harder, if it’s possible at all.
“It is a serious restriction on women’s reproductive freedom and it’s a terrible start for children brought into the world in these circumstances.”