Anthony Albanese poured cold water on a plan to improve access to abortion for women in Australia.
The prime minister says he is not considering asking public hospitals for an abortion after being requested by a Queensland Labor MP.
In an interview with an Australian newspaper, Keppel MP Brittany Lauga called on the Albanian government to revive the 2019 abortion policy.
The policy advocated at the time by Tania Pliebersek required public hospital systems to offer abortion services as part of their Commonwealth funding mechanism.
Asked by 3AW Radio on Wednesday if he was considering requiring public hospitals to make abortions available as part of their funding agreements, Mr. Albanese replied, “No.”
Responding to an inquiry from Labor, Mr Albanese insisted that the abortion provision was a “state matter”.
“We do not control the healthcare system. States control the healthcare system,” he said.
“We’re lucky that in Australia we don’t have the kind of contentious debate that happened in the US that we saw in the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.”
Mr. Albanese said the Supreme Court’s decision, which overturned Americans’ universal right to abortion, was “very unfortunate.”
Abortion is a public issue in Australia, where it has been decriminalized in all jurisdictions following South Australia’s decision in 2021.
But access remains uneven across the country, especially outside major cities where private clinics are few and doctors may face stigmatization for providing services.
The resulting postcode lottery means that many women living in rural and remote areas of Australia have to travel to get medical or surgical abortions.
Medical termination of pregnancy using the drugs mifepristone (RU486) and misoprostol can be performed by physicians in the first nine weeks of pregnancy, but very few Australian GPs are registered to prescribe drugs.
The timing of surgical termination of pregnancy, a day procedure used to terminate a pregnancy at a later date, varies from state to state, from 16 weeks in the ACT to 24 weeks in Victoria and the Northern Territory.
Accessing them can be even more difficult for women because they can be prohibitively expensive and usually require a trip to a private clinic to have the procedure done.
It’s different in Tasmania, where public hospitals are the only place to get an abortion because there are no private providers.
State and territory women’s ministers have said they want to streamline Australia’s abortion law and make the procedure more accessible and affordable.
They are expected to discuss access to abortion when they meet in Adelaide on Friday.
Originally published as Anthony Albanese urges Labor for abortion policy in public hospitals