Tasmania gets women's abortion clinic

December 4, 1991

Tasmania gets women's abortion clinic

By Kath Gelber

HOBART — Tasmania's first independent abortion clinic opened here in November. Previously, only limited abortion services were available in some hospitals, and many women were forced to go interstate for termination of unwanted pregnancies.

The clinic is run by the Women's Health Foundation, a non-profit medical and counselling service run by and for women. "Our aim is to ensure not only that women have the right to choose, but that they have the right to choose a service that provides dignity, self-respect and confidentiality", clinic director Lee Barker told Green Left Weekly.

The counselling service includes advice on alternatives to abortion provided in a supportive, non-judgmental atmosphere.

The previous restrictions on abortion and the expense of travel meant that termination was often not available to those who needed it most. "I know of one woman who spent her whole pension cheque getting to Melbourne for an abortion, and then she and her two-year-old child lived on food vouchers for the next two weeks", Barker said.

The clinic will provide counselling, termination (up to the 12th week) and post-operative checkups under one roof.

"Tasmania is the last state to get such a service, and it is absolutely necessary. Women of all social classes choose abortion, and so do women from ethnic backgrounds and from religious groups often thought to oppose abortion.

"Women must be able to decide whether to have a baby, based on economic, emotional or other reasons. Support for the service has been enormous.

"According to Jo Wainer of the Wainer Clinic for Women in Melbourne, one in every two women has an abortion at some time. In the words of Bessie Smith in 1893, 'If a woman has a right to decide on any question, it certainly is as to how many children she shall bear'".

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