Queensland women have been
turned away from hospitals,
judged by their GPs, flown interstate to
procure an abortion, and
experienced harassment outside clinics as there is no law
stopping protesters from gathering.
Now women will face extra obstacles as Australia’s largest
abortion provider, Marie Stopes International, prepares to stop
surgical terminations at its Townsville and Rockhampton
It’s estimated 800 women travel to these clinics for the
procedure every year.
The chief executive of the not-for-profit social enterprise,
Alexis Apostolellis, said the clinics, which serviced women in
rural and remote Queensland, had suffered “significant”
“We cannot ask our other centres around Australia to continue
absorbing unsustainable losses,” Apostolellis told BuzzFeed
News, “as we also have a responsibility to provide affordable
services to women elsewhere and the more service we provide at
a loss, sadly, the more expensive other women will find their
“We are trying to provide women with reproductive choice in an
area of public health not well supported or funded by the
“For many [women] this would have been their closest option,
and the next closest facilities for surgical termination are
Brisbane and Cairns.
“Finding doctors willing to provide surgical terminations is,
in general, a complex task, as it’s not something covered in
traditional rotations and few doctors choose to specialise.”
Queensland Health estimates that only 1% of abortions are
performed in public hospitals, but some14,000 terminations take
place in the state every year.
Cairns MP Rob Pyne’s bill to decriminalise abortion was
rejected by a parliamentary inquiry but he has introduced a
second, amended bill that he believes answers all the inquiry’s
Apostolellis said it was “no surprise” that state governments
were reluctant to be involved in service provision in
Queensland and New South Wales, where the legal status of
abortion was “very unclear”.
“If the Queensland government was open to partnering with
private providers in a shared service model,” he said,
“maintaining an acceptable level of access to surgical
procedures in regional centres would be possible, but that is
highly improbable under current laws.
“Maintaining and staffing surgical facilities is extremely
expensive and when you add to this the hesitation some health
professionals have in providing abortion, especially in
regional and rural areas, our challenges multiply.”