What is the abortion “post-code” lottery, and what can we do about it?
The term “post-code lottery” refers to the fact that where someone lives can often determine the availability and quality of healthcare services they can access. Simply living in the “wrong” city, town, or even street can make a difference in what healthcare services you can access, or whether you can access it publicly or privately.
When it comes to abortion and other sexual and reproductive health services, this post-code lottery can be even more obvious. In some countries such as the US, the abortion post-code lottery is dramatically visible, as abortion is criminalised in certain states.
In Victoria however, there is still an abortion post-code lottery. This is for a combination of reasons:
- Not all public hospitals provide surgical abortion services.
- For the hospitals that do, there is often criteria around who they can provide an abortion to – such as a catchment area for nearby suburbs, or priority criteria.
- Not all GP clinics, community health services and pharmacies provide medication abortions. Staff need to have done special training in order to prescribe medication abortions. Unfortunately, this could mean that unless your local services have done this training, you may need to travel to access a medication abortion.
- In some areas, there may also may be a significant amount of conscientious objectors who refuse to provide abortion services. For example, one study conducted in rural western Victoria found that nearly 40% of GPs and Practice Nurses working in the region were conscientious objectors who did not provide information on abortion.
- There are often limited services available in rural and regional areas.
- Most surgical abortion providers outside of Melbourne only perform surgical terminations up until 12 weeks gestation.
- Some rural towns may have limited GP, pharmacy or ultrasound services.
- Fees at private clinics all vary. This can mean that finding an abortion service within your budget could involve some travel.
People seeking essential healthcare services such as abortion should not need the luck of the post-code lottery on their side. Some ways that we can address the abortion post-code lottery can include:
- Providing surgical abortions at all public hospitals
- Encouraging GPs and pharmacists to undergo training to provide medication abortions
- Keep telehealth appointments for sexual and reproductive healthcare subsidised
While abortions are safe and legal in Victoria, there is clearly still work to be done to ensure that abortion access is equitable for everyone, regardless of where they live.
If you need help finding an abortion service, contact 1800 My Options - weekdays, 9am - 5pm, on 1800 696 784.