20 April 2023

No matter your Medicare status, surgical and medical abortions are now free in the ACT

| Claire Fenwicke
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MSI Canberra staff

MSI Canberra staff can assist with surgical and medical abortions, which are now free up to certain gestations in the ACT. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

The financial cost of a surgical or medical abortion will no longer be a barrier for women with unwanted pregnancies in the ACT.

Canberrans can now access free medical abortions up to nine weeks and surgical abortions up to 16 weeks at the MSI clinic in Civic.

Nurse unit manager Melissa Ryan said cost was a huge factor for many people who accessed their services.

“We often see later gestations come into the clinic because they needed time to save up money to come here in the first place,” she said.

“[Cost] is a huge burden, especially if people already have a lot of children or if they’re not working, they work part-time, and for temporary visa holders as well.”

If you have a Medicare card, a medical abortion would cost about $500 out of pocket and a surgical abortion upwards of $600.

Now they’re free, regardless of your Medicare status.

“There’s no out-of-pocket cost, there’s nothing being reimbursed or anything like that, it’s totally free,” Ms Ryan said.

People seeking abortions don’t need to do anything before making their appointment as the clinic also has bedside ultrasound services.

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Clients will also be offered free access to long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) options, such as an IUD, hormonal implant or Mirena.

LARC services can be accessed at the time of a surgical abortion or within a specific timeframe after a medical abortion.

Ms Ryan said removing this barrier to abortion was essential for a person’s mental health when making this decision.

“For the clients, mental health is a huge one. We also have a lot of people coming in with severe morning sickness or debilitating fatigue, all the things that come with the first trimester of pregnancy,” she said.

“Being able to be seen sooner helps them get back on their feet and get back to their families and normal life without worrying about a pregnancy that’s unwanted.”

Free LARC options are only available to people seeking abortions; however, they are still available for a cost to other clients.

MSI Canberra clinic

Medical abortions are available up to nine weeks and surgical abortions are available up to 16 weeks for free at the MSI Canberra clinic. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the $4.6 million commitment over four years was an election promise that isn’t capped, which means the government could examine the possibility of continuing funding past the current commitment.

“Timely access to abortion is absolutely critical for [a person’s] psychological and physical health, as well as for people’s socioeconomic wellbeing as well,” she said.

“Obviously, the financial impact of the upfront payment for a medical or surgical abortion at the moment has presented a barrier to some people who have an unwanted pregnancy and would have chosen to access an abortion.

“We don’t really know what the impact of that is going to look like, so we will wait and see what the financial impact of that looks like over time and whether we need to allocate some more funding to this service.”

While the service is only available to those living in the ACT, Ms Stephen-Smith said the government would be examining the demographics of people who accessed the MSI service to see if that condition needed to be changed.

Expanding free abortions to other providers, as well as creating easier access to information, are also being discussed.

Ms Stephen-Smith said it was important to understand abortions aren’t a luxury but a “vital, time-critical health service”.

“I think anyone who has had an unwanted pregnancy would understand that this is a critical healthcare service. This is about giving people who can become pregnant an opportunity to make their own choice about their reproductive health and whether they want to continue that pregnancy or not,” she said.

“What we are doing today is removing a significant financial barrier to accessing a critical health service.”

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Abortions beyond 16 weeks aren’t currently possible in the Territory due to a lack of infrastructure and trained staff.

While conversations are being had to address this, Ms Stephen-Smith said she hoped free abortions up to 16 weeks would mean fewer people would need later-stage services.

“I think one of the key outcomes in providing abortions free of charge is that people won’t need to delay a decision to have an abortion in order to save up the money to be able to pay for it, and that is really critical in ensuring people are able to access timely care,” she said.

Access to LARC options can also help prevent people from being in the position of having an unwanted pregnancy in the future.

“One of the important things about including the availability of long-acting reversible contraception [LARC] is using that opportunity to talk to people who have an unwanted pregnancy, who are accessing abortion, about their reproductive healthcare and whether there are alternatives for them that might ensure they won’t have a future unwanted pregnancy,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

MSI Canberra is located at 1 Moore St, Civic, and offers abortion, contraception and vasectomy services. Call 1300 867 104 or go online to make an appointment.

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@Oudy Jones
The wonderful thing about our democracy is that you have the freedom to express your religious and/or spititual beliefs, including on matters related to medical procedures.
An even more wonderful thing about our democracy, is that it is secular, which means that religious and spitritual beliefs are irrelevant when it comes to the formulation of public policy, in particular, access to medical services.
Perhaps, it’s worth remembering that many women, who make the decision to have a termination, suffer mental anguish both before and after they do so – every decision has consequences and I imagine those decisions are not taken lightly.

JustSaying, “it’s worth remembering that many women, who make the decision to have a termination, suffer mental anguish both before and after they do so”
Some yes, do feel that way, but “many”? Here is a link on this. This is though five years after the abortion.


Thank you for the clarification … I think you have highlighted exactly why we men should probably stay out of this space.

Abortion does not fall on any side of politics and instead falls on an individual woman and what (she) wants to do with her life? Well knock me over with a feather Gregg Heldon!
Let’s just take a little look at what is happening in the news with abortion laws in the US and the ACT.
The abhorrent influence of Donald Trump continues to manifest in American life. The US Supreme Court has recently voted to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade decision and abolish a woman’s constitutional rights to abortion. This dangerous decision was made possible by Trump’s appointment of three highly dubious and conservative Justices to the US Supreme Court.
In the ACT, abortion law reforms have been long fought. This struggle has been against an increasingly conservative federal and local Liberal government. It is quite embarrassing and enlightening to read and watch past debates on the Legislative Assembly website on the subject going back 2001.
ACT taxpayers continue to fund Calvary Hospital in Bruce owned by the Little Company of Mary Health Care. The hospital continues to refuse health care services to women accessing contraception services and abortion. There was a particularly good letter in the Canberra Times today on the subject.
Key opponents of any change to abortion laws have been the Canberra Liberals and the Right to Life Lobby.
Many past and current Canberra Liberals are active members and financial contributors to the right to life lobby. They also have strong links to the Advance Australia fringe group which has provided significant funding to their cause.

Jack D,
When do you believe a human life begins and should be afforded the full suite of human rights?

Bob the impala1:42 pm 22 Apr 23

chewy14, do you believe human rights are devised or conferred other than by humans?

Surely you are not going to pursue that line of argument? The fact that abortion is legal in every jurisdiction in Australia (a secular democracy) means that debate has run its course.

Point of order…..a human baby has a father, its not just a female only choice.

Obviously a whole lot of comments have been deleted.

Surely you are not going to just ignore the question?

As for the second part of your comment, are you actually suggesting that because something is legal or illegal, it can never be debated again?

So in the American states where it has been outlawed, you also feel that they should just stop talking about it?

The idea that there is a definitive “correct” answer to this issue is simply wrong. I support abortion for pragmatic reasons but I’m well aware that my position is no more right or moral than people who oppose it. Anyone that can’t see the ambiguity of this issue is in my opinion is a fool.

Bob, the answer to your question is no.

Gregg Heldon8:57 am 23 Apr 23

Why look at the US?
And I maintain, an abortion is a deeply personal matter for a woman and politics doesn’t, and shouldn’t, enter it.
That you choose to politicise everything is, I think sad.

I’m happy to debate that a woman should have the right to have control over her own body – nothing ambigous about that, fool or not.
Anything else is irrelevant to me.
Unless you believe you have the right to impose your opinion/beliefs on those women, chewy?

stevew77, so you are suggesting the husband should have a say over the woman’s body? No, he’s not the one who will have to take the risk of bearing a child. The only person who has a say here is the person who would have to bear the baby.
I’m not saying that in a good relationship that this shouldn’t be discussed, but ultimately it’s the woman’s choice, and in a respectful good relationship, the man would support his partner’s choice, knowing it’s her body, and the risk is hers, not his.

Once again you ignore the question and it’s obvious why.

The debate isn’t about what a woman does with her own body, so yes the rest of your comment is irrelevant.

Bob the impala12:30 pm 23 Apr 23

“Bob, the answer to your question is no.”
chewy14, thank you for your reply. I agree that the issue is among the more difficult ethically, so do not deny contention. However, I think also that Q&A cuts the ground from your prior query to JustSaying.

That it is the woman’s choice is to me without doubt. If, some time in the future, there were more options among which to choose then that may help, provided it is not by imposition.

I read that as it stands today, life outcomes for both parent and child in a forced birth are inferior to their peers whereas women (including in couples) who abort when younger often go on to have normal, ordinary lives with peer-performing children when they are able to provide proper support. There is broader social as well as individual benefit in this.

Your last paragraph is one of the main reasons that I personally support abortion, agree with those points entirely.

Bob the impala2:14 pm 23 Apr 23

Sorry, those words should have been “… prior query to Jack D.”

In a 1989 Family Court of Australia decision, Justice Lindenmayer stated that:
‘the court could not overlook that the foetus must grow inside the wife’s – not the husband’s body and “to grant the injunction would be to compel the wife to do something in relation to her own body which she does not wish to do. That would be an interference with her freedom to decide her own destiny.” He went on to say, “I have concluded, on balance, that the legitimate interest of the husband is, in the circumstances of the case, subordinate to the legitimate interest of the wife in being left free to decide a matter which affects her far more directly than it does the husband.”’

Subsequent rulings have confimed that decsion.

Point of order rejected!

Yes you are right, it is obvious why I ignored the question, because it’s a stupid and at best rhetorical.

When I believe a human life begins and should be afforded the full suite of human rights, is irrelevant to a woman facing the decision of whether or not to terminate HER foetus (note the emphasis on the decsion maker, please).

And the fact that you continued to press the question only reinforces the relevance of the rest of my comment.

So, do you believe you have the right to impose your opinion/beliefs on women facing the decision on whether or not to have a termination, chewy14?

No you won’t answer it because it highlights the complexity of the issue which you want to pretend doesn’t exist.

If you won’t answer the first question, based on your last comment, do you support late term abortions through to birth?

If so, why? If not, why not?

As for your question, I’ve specifically said I’m not trying to impose my belief on anyone as I fully accept the complexity of the issue.

Let me put it simply, so even you can understand. I have no position on abortion per se. Rather I am pro-choice – i.e. letting a woman have control over her own body. That’s not complex – it’s called freedom of choice. Move on.

Thank you for your services Marie Stopes.

Why don’t they just offer after pay if payment is an issue.

Bringing a child to birth and raising it is not free. Even by the time of birth, and particularly in the case of a first child, many hundreds of dollars will have been spent attending pre-natal courses, purchasing nappies and clothes in anticipation, buying prams and cots. Then there’s the costs of raising the child. So would someone please explain to me why in the ACT killing the child in the womb should be free to the customer and paid for from the Territory’s taxes? And why the ACT’s own dedicated killing factory, the MSI (i.e., Marie Stopes International) centre, and its personnel, should be celebrated here in the online RiotAct as if the service being provided was life-sustaining, harmless, and morally unobjectionable instead of the opposite?

Bob the impala5:18 pm 20 Apr 23

Sure, I’ll explain Colin Jory; your assumptions are wrong, because you ignore entirely the welfare of the only person whose decision it is: the woman.

@Colin Jory
Because it’s a medical procedure. A lot of the costs associated with pregnany and giving birth, are also covered.
Fortunately, Medicare doesn’t use religious dogma as one of the criteria for assessing medical claims.

Well said… An unwanted child is not a child who should be forced apon a woman, society or life.

Because a wanted child is paid for without objection. an unwanted child suffers immeasural pain for all of it’s life and is most likely not well cared for, and definately not protected financially!

Come back when this affects your womb Colin.

Same reason why I don’t consider I ate 3 whole chickens this morning, most people simply reject your view that fetus is a baby just like an egg isn’t a chicken.

You can use inflammatory language all you want, it’s not going to work – a fetus isn’t a baby.

I presume that means that wealthy women can now get a termination free of charge while pensioners still have to pay for essential elective surgery. Sounds completely fair.

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