Abortion reform 'unfinished business'

Labor's Tanya Plibersek has made the case for Australia to address its 'unfinished business on reproductive health'.

Queensland and NSW may have female state leaders, but it's still a potentially jailable offence for women to have an abortion in those states.

Federal Labor's deputy leader Tanya Plibersek has made the case for Australia to address its "unfinished business on reproductive health" while delivering the Emily's List oration in Canberra on Wednesday night.

"Having an abortion is a criminal act in both Queensland and New South Wales - that means it's a crime for half the women in Australia," Ms Plibersek said, noting a Brisbane couple were prosecuted for purchasing abortion drugs in 2010 and last month a woman was prosecuted in New South Wales.

"Our outdated laws are a serious barrier to the provision of health care and they lead to the ridiculous situation of abortion tourism."

One in 25 women has to travel interstate for a termination.

Ms Plibersek also raised concerns about "shockingly common" incidents involving reproductive coercion as part of domestic violence.

"It happens when your partner controls or sabotages your birth control; when they make threats or are violent if you insist on using a condom," she said.

"It's when a man emotionally blackmails or coerces you into falling pregnant or keeping a pregnancy you don't want or - the flipside - forces you to have an abortion as a sign of your love and fidelity."

She acknowledged having a child creates a legal tie between victim and abuser that can last a lifetime and makes it far harder to leave a violent relationship.

Existing sex education programs in schools were failing and girls paid a higher price, Ms Plibersek argued.

"It's girls who are more likely to be pressured to have sex when they don't want to, to be publicly shamed for sending selfies, to be ostracised for being too frigid or too promiscuous," she said.

"Young Australians are developing unhealthy ideas about what sex and sexual relationships look like because we're not talking to them clearly enough about healthy relationships. Misinformation is only a click away."

The former Labor health minister said putting the abortion drug RU486 on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme of subsidised drugs in 2013 was one of the most important things she did in that role.

But she lamented that the cost, up to $800 in some parts of Australia, is still prohibitive for many women and less than 1.5 per cent of GPs are registered to prescribe the drug.

National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

3 min read
Published 16 August 2017 at 8:04pm
Source: AAP