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Snakes and ladders

by Jacinta Cubis

On International Women's Day we talked with Lynne Jordan about sexual and reproductive health in Australia.

We’re a smart bunch that gathers each month at The Women’s Table. However, we were all surprised to learn the complexities and costs of a medical abortion and of the morning after pill. And how much the process of getting it can vary, depending on where you live and the pharmacist’s approach.

This month, Lynne Jordan, Consultant and former CEO of Family Planning Victoria, compared women’s reproductive health to a game of snakes and ladders. Just when you reach the top of a ladder, down the next snake you slide.

Where can you have a termination?

For those who don’t work in health policy, it was unnerving to hear how much of a gap there is between abortion legislation and the service system that provides it. Did you know that abortion is still in the criminal code in NSW?

Surgical abortion is covered by a number of Medicare item numbers so it sounds like it would be relatively straightforward to obtain one in Australian hospitals. Not so. We learnt that most abortions are still done in the private system. And though for many women, medical abortion would be preferable, much more of the mainstream service system needs to be involved beyond Family Planning Victoria to ensure women can readily access it.

Free contraception - now there's an idea

Contraception is ridiculously expensive in Australia. It was free under Obamacare and women have access to free contraception in the United Kingdom and many Scandinavian countries. Another snake.

We’ve celebrated another International Women’s Day 2017 but the board game that is women’s reproductive health continues to be a tricky one – in services, policy and legislation. Yet it is so important to the health and wellbeing of women today and for generations to come.

Winds of change in Victoria

Let's hope the new Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/victorian-first-sexual-and-reproductive-health-plan/ also released on International Women's Day by the Victorian Health Minister leads to continued reform and real benefits not just in Victoria but flowing on to the rest of Australia.

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