The US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade has raised concerns about access to abortion within the Australian community. In the ACT specifically, there are several ways people can access sexual and reproductive health care.
Woroni spoke to Coquohalla Connor, who recently discussed on ABC Radio the difficulty in accessing sexual healthcare in Canberra. Connor explained that “like other health services in the territory, sexual health is no different,” in that “specialist help is, unfortunately, hard to come by in the ACT.” The Canberra FM journalist added that “many people have to wait months on a waiting list” before they can access the desired procedures.
In Australia, abortion is a state or territory issue. This means Australian citizens don’t have a constitutional right to abortion, nor rights to any specific sexual health operations, at the federal level. Therefore, reproductive rights depend on where someone lives, and whether they can access the relevant facilities.
Below is a summary of what kinds of reproductive healthcare individuals have access to in Canberra, the process required, and where to access them.
To access the contraceptive pill in the ACT, you need a prescription from a GP. A person must organise an appointment to discuss with a GP which contraceptive pill best suits them. The pill can be purchased from a chemist with a prescription, most of which last for 12 months before needing renewal.
For ANU students, the ANU Women’s Department subsidises 50 percent of the cost of birth control at the University Pharmacy in Kambri.
An IUD has a very similar process to the Pill. A person must consult a GP first to discuss the benefits and harms of the device. Provided the GP agrees to the operation, they will write a prescription to purchase an IUD at any chemist. A GP must also refer the patient to a clinic that can complete IUD operations.
Clinics with specialists in the ACT include Gaia Women’s Specialists, GCA Canberra Gynaecology Clinic and the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children. These operations do have a long waiting period, however, the appointments are usually very quick. Some clinics also offer counselling and postoperative appointments.
For other sexual health concerns, in the ACT, some GPs can complete STI checks. However, the Canberra Sexual Health Centre (CSHC) is a specialist clinic in the Canberra Hospital that provides professional care for anyone. This care includes free testing and treatment for STIs, including HIV. Patients can self-refer to the clinic, or a GP can refer them. If there is a need for treatment, the clinic can organise a prescription for any medication required for free.
Abortions can be accessed in the ACT up to the 16th week of gestation at specialist clinics such as the MSA Clinic. However, because abortions beyond 16 weeks can be dangerous, the Canberra MSA Clinic cannot perform them. In this scenario, the clinic will direct patients to an MSA clinic in Sydney, where they can perform abortions up to the 22nd week.
In the ACT, a patient can access both medical and surgical abortions. A surgical abortion is the standard operation where a trained doctor would either use suction or medical tools to empty the uterus. Individuals can acquire surgical abortions at MSA ACT, Gynaecology Centres Australia, or the Canberra Hospital. A medical abortion uses pills to expel the fetus from the uterus, but is only available for patients who are less than nine weeks pregnant.
Medicare covers some of the costs for surgical and medical abortions in Australia, but they can be costly without private health insurance.
Depending on where you go, either type of abortion is commonly followed by access to counselling or consultation with a psychologist to help both during and after the abortion. Support services in the ACT include Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT (SHFPACT), which offers testing, advice and free counselling services for people experiencing unplanned pregnancy and referrals to abortion services as requested.
If you or anyone you know is affected by the content of this piece, or encounter similar incidents to those described in this article, please contact one of the support services below:
(02) 6125 2442
1800 737 732
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, Crisis Line
(02) 6247 2525
ANU Women’s Department
ANU Queer* Department
ANU Respectful Relationships Unit