It is with regret that we announce the Women’s Access Fund cannot continue in its current form and will cease operation tomorrow, Thursday 28 March.
What does this mean for your service?
You can still refer clients to us if they are having trouble affording abortion services. But please note that we will only be able to provide financial assistance to clients in a very small number of cases, where we’ve tried all other avenues to raise the funds or access a public service and been unsuccessful. It is important that women aren’t referred to us with the expectation we can help fund their procedure.
We can still help women find pathways for assistance, and of course provide any support around decision making or other related issues for women who need it. However, the axing of the majority of our financial assistance program means that you may need to assess what support your own organisation can provide to your clients in need to facilitate real choice.
To help other services negotiate the affordability of abortion services in Queensland, we’ve released a blueprint for health and community services outlining referral options and strategies for assisting clients to raise the funds they need. This can be accessed on our website.
We will also be looking to connect with GPs, particularly in regional areas, who may be interested in becoming a prescriber of mifepristone. Further information on this issue will follow in coming weeks.
We’re also happy to work with you further to help develop a more cohesive approach to support women in difficult circumstances access abortion. If you’re interested in discussing this please get in touch with our counselling team on 3357 5570 (Brisbane) or tollfree on 1800 177 725, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To those services which have helped us in the past with facilitating client access to abortion services, and those which continue to provide this kind of assistance to their own clients, thank you. Your support has so often meant the difference between a woman being able to access the termination she wants and her having to continue with the pregnancy she doesn’t.
Where to from here?
As of April 1, our Women’s Access Fund will be disbanded and replaced by the Action4Choice fund.
The access-related work of our counselling and community education teams will expand in focus from individual to systemic. Instead of providing small amounts of money for individual clients, we will work towards improving public access and expanding the provision of medication abortion in Queensland. Through working to change the system we hope to make a bigger difference for a larger number of women, and thus reduce the increasing need for financial assistance.
We’ve already started on this work, and going forward it will include:
· Working harder to secure public services for women wherever possible. Currently women are being turned away from a public hospital even though their circumstances would qualify them for a lawful public termination; this includes women with severe and life-threatening medical issues, and those whose pregnancy is the result of sexual assault. Obtaining access to terminations in public hospitals can be an onerous and lengthy process; even gaining an appointment for a woman to be assessed as to whether she may qualify for a lawful termination is impossible in some hospitals. In the past, we have hesitated to recommend this pathway for some women, given the difficulty of accessing a procedure and the potential for this process to cause women distress, although we have had some successes in securing public procedures and will continue this struggle. Ensuring women’s access to those services to which they are entitled will form a critical part of our response to women in need.
· Advocating for the inclusion of mifepristone, or RU486, to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). We’ve made a submission to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee supporting the addition of mifepristone to the PBS, in order to make it more affordable for Australian women, and will continue to advocate its inclusion in the scheme.
· Working with GPs in regional communities on gaining prescribing rights for mifepristone, so women in these communities will be able to access a medication abortion locally instead of having to travel large distances to a clinic.
Of course, there will still be women for whom this is does not secure abortion access. We are still committed to working with women to help them source financial assistance from wherever they can in order to help them access a termination. A large part of the work of our counselling team is taken up with providing this kind of support, and this will not change.
Our No Interest Loans Scheme will still be operational. There are certain criteria women must meet to qualify for a loan under this scheme, and our upper limit is $200, but it is still an option for support we can provide to women at this stage.
If all else fails and we have a client who simply cannot find the funds she needs to access an abortion, we will do our best to support her with whatever monies we have available and ensure she isn’t left stranded with no option but to continue a pregnancy.
What has changed?
There are many factors which influence women’s access to abortion. We will be releasing a detailed report on these issues in coming weeks, but to provide a snapshot of abortion in Queensland as compared with other states:
· Only around 1% of terminations are provided in the public system. In South Australia, this figure is around 97% of all procedures.
· The minimum out-of-pocket cost for a first trimester termination is approaching $500 in Brisbane, and more in regional centres. In 2000, when our financial assistance program began, it was around $120. The maximum fortnightly Newstart payment for a single parent is $533.
· Only three providers operate outside the southeast corner. These are located in Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns. The average travel distance for our regional, rural and remote clients in 2011-12 to access a provider was 854km each way.
· There is a lack of support from some parts of the community sector for women’s access to abortion. Of those organisations in Queensland with federal Emergency Relief funds, over half are faith-based organisations which are highly unlikely to provide money to help clients access abortion. A common response to our calls to other agencies for assistance is ‘we don’t give money for that purpose’, or ‘we don’t do that here.’
Expanding disadvantaged women’s access to termination of pregnancy services is going to be a difficult journey for Children by Choice and our clients, but we are, and have always been, committed to finding long-term and sustainable solutions. Children by Choice welcomes the support of our members and supporters as we navigate a path into a future of better and more equitable access to necessary reproductive healthcare for Queensland women.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions or feedback on this issue.
The team at Children by Choice
T 07 3357 9933
F 07 3857 6246
Providing counselling, information and education services on all unplanned pregnancy options - abortion, adoption, and parenting - since 1972. Click here to make an online tax deductible donation to Children by Choice.