OPINION: Tumut doctors should prescribe RU486

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If a Tumut woman falls pregnant and doesn’t want to keep the child, she has two options.

One, travel to a private clinic in either Albury or Canberra and have a surgical abortion. This requires an anaesthetic, which means that she can’t drive home herself.

Or two, organise a medical abortion over the phone through an organisation like the Tabbott Foundation, who will mail her the abortion drug RU486 if it is appropriate in her case.

It is possible for any GP to complete an online training course to prescribe RU486, which would be the preferred option for any woman wishing to use local services she knows she can trust.

The drug has a range of side effects that differ from the more widely known surgical option, but it is safe to a degree that it is available over the counter in some countries. The World Health Organisation advocates for it to be available for all women.

However, no doctor in this region, including all surgeries in Tumut and Wagga, will prescribe it.

Previous attempts by the TA Times to speak to doctors on this issue went unanswered, but presumably this is because of they have either preferenced their own ideology over their patients’ health, or because the stigma from the community is too toxic for them to feel that they can prescribe it without consequences.

Those who oppose abortion seem to think the procedure is cruel.

However, if you take the view that the existence of a woman who is already breathing, thinking, and generally being alive is more important than that of a foetus, then the opposite is true.

The women I know are studying psychology, business, medicine, art. Some have chosen to be mothers, and they are wonderful at it. They are taking their first steps into the workforce; moving interstate and overseas to follow their passions. They are travelling the world and learning who they are and of what they are capable. They are smart and strong and compassionate.

To demand that their futures are taken away from them; that their potential be cut short and their bank balances drained and their livelihood removed on the basis of a broken condom, a lapse in judgement, or – god forbid – an assault, is cruel.

To suggest that anyone knows more about what these women should do with their reproductive systems than they do is insulting and dangerous.

A woman I spoke to in the course of writing this article told me that her partner was anti-choice – up until the point that she told him she had had an abortion in the past, and he had a human face to put to the abstract issue.

A real person, with limitations on time and money; with hopes and dreams and fears and real reasons why committing herself to (a minimum of eighteen years of another person’s life would not be a wise or kind decision.

It is amazing how many people see the issue of abortion as a philosophical moral dilemma to wax lyrical about from atop their high horse, while never considering what the actual ramifications of having a child would be for the women they know and care about. How many women are anti-choice, until they or someone they know falls pregnant.

This hypocrisy creates a damaging political climate where those making the responsible decision to refrain from have a child when they are not able to do so face unnecessary stigma and expense.

One quarter of Australian women will have an abortion in their lifetimes.

These are teenage girls at our high schools who are terrified their lives are over; who are facing the heartbreaking choice between bringing life into the world when they are only children themselves, or finding a way of somehow scraping together hundreds of dollars and sneaking off to Albury without incurring the judgement of their parents and community.

These are good parents who already have a household of kids, and don’t have the capacity for any more. Over 70 per cent of abortions are taken up by women who are already mothers.

These are single women who have talent and energy, and dreams that lie in a different direction to motherhood.

“If you don’t want to get pregnant don’t have sex.” You may as well attempt to stop the tides by yelling at the ocean.

Teenagers, never mind adults, do and will have sex. This is an immutable fact that neither the government, the church, or the community can do anything about. You can not legislate people into keeping it in their pants, and that has been proven throughout the world over and over and over again: attempts to limit contraception results in pregnancy rates rising; removing sex education that discusses other options than abstinence leads to a spike in STD rates.

Besides, this isn’t a conversation about how young ladies should run their lives in a subjective idea of a perfect world. It’s a practical issue of accessibility to healthcare that is actually needed in reality right now.

Here’s what the evidence tells us: We know that when legal abortion is limited there is a rise in women self-aborting through measures like drinking bleach, inserting a coat hanger into their reproductive systems, or throwing themselves down the stairs. 13 per cent of maternal deaths worldwide are the result of unsafe abortions, and before the procedure was legalised in Australia entire wings of some public hospitals were dedicated to women suffering from painful and sometimes fatal sepsis from botched DIY abortions.

We know that the crime rates in the United States, Australia, Canada, and elsewhere dropped precipitously approximately sixteen years after abortion was legalised in each case.

We know that (a percentage of) Australian women are sacrificing buying groceries and paying bills so they can afford a procedure that is only expensive because of ideology.

The fact that there is no doctor in Tumut who will prescribe the abortion drug, RU486, when all they would have to do is opt in, is shameful.

They are letting down the roughly 1,875 women in the shire who have had or will have an abortion. They are actively preventing affordable and accessible health care from reaching those who need it most. They are failing in their duty of care.

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