Tasmania’s Premier has been unable to guarantee that women will have access to a new low-cost surgical abortion provider by the end of the year, despite the Government previously announcing the service would open in October.
It has been almost a year since the state’s only dedicated low-cost surgical abortion clinic closed, citing a drop in demand for services.
A new clinic was supposed to open in Hobart in October, but on the last day of the month Tasmanian Health Service (THS) confirmed it was on hold due to stalled negotiations between the provider and the property owner.
Today Premier Will Hodgman was asked if he could guarantee the service would open by the end of year.
“That is certainly our hope within that time frame,” he said.
“We are expecting the next stage of this negotiation between the provider and the service to be concluded as quickly as possible.”
Mr Hodgman did not shed any light on why the talks had reached a stalemate.
“We have endeavoured to restore a facility that closed for commercial reasons, to restore that and to have the service available to Tasmanian women as soon as possible,” he said.
The THS has refused to name the new surgical abortion provider, citing privacy concerns.
Mr Hodgman advised women seeking an abortion to first visit their GP.
“My understanding is they certainly should, in the first instance, seek advice from a GP and obtain a referral by that process,” he said.
“But as for the availability of going direct, I would need to take some advice on that.”
Premier’s ‘see your GP’ advice challenged
His comments come as documents obtained through Right to Information laws revealed former head of Women’s Health Tasmania Glenyis Flower wrote to the Premier in February detailing her concerns that telling women to first seek advice from a GP was at odds with abortion laws.
“It doesn’t take into account the fact the law allows self-referral and yet the recommendation from your Government is to go to your GP,” she wrote.
“This would therefore require women to have the funds to pay for another [GP] appointment, since it is almost impossible to get a bulk-billed appointment in Tasmania.”
Mr Hodgman was asked whether the Government was creating an unnecessary barrier for women trying to access services.
“I think it is appropriate for anyone seeking medical attention to get advice and support through a general practitioner,” he said.