While the US cuts abortion access, Australia likely to increase it

Good news, antipodean abortion lovers! The Australian government announced today that RU486, the abortion pill, is one step closer to being included in the government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, making it easier for patients to afford.

How easy? Like, between $12 and $36 easy. Which is a far cry from its current cost of $300-$800 (which is about what it is in the US, too).

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek was waiting on the advice of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, which announced yesterday that it will add miseprostol and mifepristone to the list of drugs that should be subsidised by the government. The ABC reports that,

Plibersek says it is an “important first step.”

“Now, we’ll go into a period of making sure that there is a steady, good-quality supply of the drug, that there is a cost-effective price of the drug,” she said.

Ms Plibersek said a decision would be made within weeks.
She said she would not prejudge the process but has spoken in favour of the use of the drugs.

“These drugs have been on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines for years now.

“Tens of millions of women have used these drugs successfully around the world.”

This also means that General Practicioners will be able to prescribe the drug, which is a big deal in a country where so many people live a long way from surgical abortion providers.

Time is of the essence, though. We’ve got an election coming up, and the man who’ll most likely be our next Prime Minister isn’t exactly pro-choice. Though he said this year he’d accept the views of “technical experts” in the matter of RU486, in 2005, Tony Abbott wanted to veto the inclusion of the drug on the benefits scheme list.

According to Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, “the Health Minister needs to move quickly to make it harder for a potential Abbott government, who we know have got conservative views on women’s reproductive rights, to scuttle this important initiative.”

If the drug gets on to the list, Australia would join the fifty or so countries that already subsidise it. If we could just get the USA to come along with us…

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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