There’s a view afoot in politics that all medical professionals and religious institutions should be forced to provide abortion. The strategy: to describe this as ‘universal access to reproductive healthcare’
A Senate inquiry is currently underway into universal access to reproductive healthcare, thanks to a motion introduced by Greens Senator Larissa Waters.
While the terms of reference are ostensibly broad enough to include “pregnancy care” and a focus on the workforce needed to deliver it, it is clear that the focus is on contraception and abortion access.
Commenting on the inquiry, Senator Waters said the Greens would “continue to work to ensure people have access to legal, free and safe pregnancy termination services and a full range of contraception options, including unbiased counselling, no matter where they live.”
“The Organon report comes off the back of those two reports I wrote about recently which suggested that there were access problems to abortion, including late-term abortion, in Queensland, despite there being more than one abortion an hour in that state alone and more than one late-term abortion a week.”
The same day the inquiry was announced, a report was released by contraception manufacturer Organon, lamenting the push for ‘natural’ and ‘non-hormonal’ fertility methods, including tracking of cycles.
Referring to this report, Senator Waters said that access to information about contraception would also form part of the inquiry.
The Organon report comes off the back of those two reports I wrote about recently which suggested that there were access problems to abortion, including late-term abortion, in Queensland, despite there being more than one abortion an hour in that state alone and more than one late-term abortion a week.
Call me cynical, but I doubt the timing of these reports, two of which emanated from Senator Waters’ home state of Queensland, is coincidental.
Nor is the cry for abortion and contraception access anything more than a thinly-veiled attempt to remove conscience protections for medical professionals and religious institutions, particularly those in regional and rural areas where medical care is limited.
Does anyone doubt there will be submission after submission to this inquiry suggesting that allowing health professionals to conscientiously object to providing abortions or dispensing contraception is denying women “reproductive healthcare”? Or that the solution proposed will be to force doctors, nurses and pharmacists to participate in abortion or prescribe or provide contraception as a condition of their registration? Or to require religious hospitals to provide abortions as a condition of receiving federal funding?
This isn’t me imagining it; this proposal comes from Senator Waters herself. She told the ABC:
“Some of the levers that the federal government could be pulling is making sure that public hospitals provide medical abortions and surgical abortions, there’s potential funding levers that they could say unless you’re providing this basic healthcare service you’re not going to get federal dollars.”
Senator Waters’ view reflects an attitude that would prefer medical professionals to leave the industry, and religious hospitals to close, than for them to refuse to provide abortion and contraception; that would rather fewer individuals and institutions providing medical care, especially in regional and rural areas where health care is already limited, than respecting their conscience; that prizes abortion so highly that it would make killing unborn babies a pre-condition to medical practice.
If this was really about reproductive healthcare, including contraception and abortion (which isn’t really reproductive healthcare at all, because it aims to prevent or terminate reproduction), then there would be advocacy for greater funding, more doctors and nurses and more hospitals.
Access could be provided in regional areas by incentivising medical professionals to work in the regions, or even by having “fly in, fly out” doctors to perform abortions.
“Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that Labor would not revive its 2019 policy to require hospitals to provide abortions as a condition of receiving public funds.”
Ghastly as this is, it would be a way that the “problem” of lack of access could be solved without infringing on conscience. That is, unless overriding conscience is the ultimate goal.
Hopefully, the government will stick to the commitment that it made just three months ago and ignore this ideological push.
Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that Labor would not revive its 2019 policy to require hospitals to provide abortions as a condition of receiving public funds.
This was a hopeful sign that the Albanese-led government would not be beholden to the demands of the Greens. Let’s pray it continues.