Rebecca Gosper: DIY abortions full of dangers

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Instead of providing personalised medical care ... the fees give a woman access to an online “consulting room” where she can watch videos about how to take the medication.
Instead of providing personalised medical care … the fees give a woman access to an online “consulting room” where she can watch videos about how to take the medication.

With the Governor’s stamp on legislation legalising abortion in NSW not even dry, the abortion industry is already cashing in on its new decriminalised status.

Just three weeks since the bill was passed, abortion clinics have already ramped up their marketing offering women tele-abortions.

For an initial $150 non-refundable fee, women can ring a call centre to discuss how to have a non-surgical abortion “in the privacy of their own home” by taking two pills – without the need to see or be referred to a General Practitioner. If she decides to go ahead, the next phone consultation will cost another $245.

The fees, which aren’t covered by Medicare or private insurance, cover the cost of the two 45-minute telephone or Skype consultations with an “abortion care provider” in what the media release announcing tele-abortions described as a “one-stop” initiative “removing the need for [Australian women] to visit health care providers face to face.”

Instead of providing personalised medical care during the abortion process, the fees give a woman access to an online “consulting room” where she can watch videos “about how to take the medication, what to expect and what to do if something happens and you’re not sure whether it’s the right thing or not.” Basically, it’s DIY abortion via YouTube instructional videos.

Despite being marketed as a more “private” option for women, the reality is that at $395 a pop, tele-abortions are ultimately a low-cost, high-revenue option for abortionists.

Gone are the days when there were rental payments and medical equipment for an abortion provider to consider. Now all they need is a medical licence and a reliable internet connection. There is no requirement to meet the woman in-person, or even over a video call. Two phone calls is all that is necessary. For an industry that claims to have the best interest of women at heart, this seems far from the reality.

Concern for women being coerced into abortions was raised throughout the debate on the NSW Abortion Law Reform Act. Despite promises that decriminalisation would make abortions safer for women, a tele-abortion service is the perfect breeding-ground for coercion. No face-to-face contact, no cooling-off period, no independent counselling, nothing.

Place yourself in the shoes of a physically or socially isolated, vulnerable woman and the results are devastating. Physical signs are absolutely crucial to detecting coercion. A nervous manner and signs of injury from a violent partner cannot be spotted over a phone call. The phone call consultation could take place with the partner in the room. Will that woman admit to being coerced in front of her partner? Unlikely.

Without independent, face-to-face counselling, vulnerable women will be put at risk.

In addition to the lack of face-to-face care, there is another alarming requirement. Women must live within two hours of a hospital. But if a woman experiences haemorrhaging after taking the drugs, she does not have two hours to get to a hospital. If a woman is experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, which is not always picked up with an ultrasound, and tries to induce a medical abortion, she will require immediate emergency care, not two-hours-from-now care.

“Services” like tele-abortions are just opening the door for another form of the “backyard abortions” cited so often during the recent abortion debates. Unfortunately, it seems like the abortion industry doesn’t so much mind backyard abortions, as long as they can profit from them.

The harsh reality is that the abortion industry is just that, an industry. It is in the business of selling abortions. With the ability to sell them for $395 each from the convenience of a call centre, it’s no wonder that the change in law prompted such a brazen attempt at profiteering.

Surely women in heartbreaking situations deserve better than the fake façade of ‘care’ offered by the for-profit tele-abortion industry.