Sharon Claydon, Chair of the Labor Women’s Caucus, vows to work for equal and affordable access

In 2006, a Private Members Bill initiated by then-Senators Claire Moore (Labour), Lyn Allison (Australian Democrat), Judith Troeth (Liberal) and Fiona Nash (National) stripped the Secretary of Health of the ability to veto any motion for RU486 be prescribed to insert. Pregnant women can now access this up to the ninth week of pregnancy via a telemedicine appointment with a family doctor or private provider and have the pills sent to them.

Claydon, whose Newcastle constituency lost its only private abortion clinic in August after MSI Australia closed regional and rural sites in NSW and Queensland, said the United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, ending decades of constitutional law abortion in America should serve as a wake-up call.

“There is a duty of vigilance,” she said.

Opposition health spokeswoman Anne Ruston said the coalition would consider any changes to existing regulations in good faith.

“These issues should be addressed with sensitivity and respect,” she said.


Warringah Independent MP Zali Steggall said she strongly supports making abortion more affordable and available and would like to discuss the issue with MPs.

Kate Chaney – the independent member of Curtin who won her seat in Western Australia from former Liberal MP Celia Hammond, a Conservative Catholic – said there should be “equal access across Australia to ensure people don’t have to travel to request a safe abortion”.

WA is the only state in Australia where abortions remain under the penal code and abortions after 20 weeks must be approved by a six-doctor “ethics committee”, prompting many women to travel interstate to have the procedure performed safely .

MSI Australia chief executive Jamal Hakim has called abortion access “a zip code lottery” and has called for new Medicare item numbers to cover the full cost of medical and surgical abortions, as well as a national abortion access taskforce.

Albanese was reluctant to engage in the abortion debate, dismissing questions about the lack of service in public hospitals as “a government issue” and noting that it “is not the subject of partisan debate” in Australia.


Assistant Secretary of Health Ged Kearney has been tasked to work with states and territories on a plan to improve access to reproductive health services, including abortion, through the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020-30.

Claydon said there was important work to be done with states and territories, which have jurisdiction to regulate layoffs and provide comprehensive health care services.

Women’s Secretary Katy Gallagher discussed the coherence of state abortion laws and access to services across Australia with her state and territory counterparts at the Women’s Safety Meeting in Adelaide on Friday at the request of a jurisdiction.

The minister said she reported on the federal government’s work to improve access to health services for women, particularly in rural and remote areas.

The Women’s Health Strategy, launched in 2019, includes a priority action to “remove barriers to support equal access to timely, adequate and affordable care for all women,” including abortion.

Break through the noise of federal politics with news, perspective and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up for our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here. Sharon Claydon, Chair of the Labor Women’s Caucus, vows to work for equal and affordable access

Joel McCord

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