Despite the rhetoric anti-abortion advocates might use, the decision to have an abortion is not made flippantly or thoughtlessly.
And the procedure itself, is not an easy option. It can be upsetting, daunting, or downright scary.
But it’s a decision women make, because they have the right to decide what happens to their body – and consequently their own lives.
Which is why the news that the abortion drug RU486 is being sold at inflated prices is so troubling. RU486 was added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in June this year to make it easier to access.
Prior to its listing on the PBS, RU-486 would cost between $300 to $800. These changes mean that it should cost as little as $5.90 for concession card holders, and $36.10 for general patients.
However, News Ltd reports at the weekend suggest that in some private clinics, RU486 is in fact more expensive than a surgical abortion. Some women are paying nearly $500 for the drug.
Abortion has been and remains an emotional issue. On one side advocates welcomed the removal of the prohibitive cost, claiming it would no longer inhibit a women’s ability to make decisions about her own body. The opposing side, the anti-abortion campaigners warned that the low cost of the drug would guarantee it would be abused.
What’s troubling about this is that the continuing high cost of RU486 puts it further out of reach for the women it was most likely to help. Cait Calcutt, of Children By Choice’s, told News Ltd, that “It’s a minimum $500 for early medical termination, before seven weeks. It’s higher, up around $700 in regional areas.”
This makes it almost impossible for women living in rural areas; young women; sexual assault victims; refugees and victims of domestic violence to use a drug they are legally entitled to access.
Why is it costing so much, despite a listing on the PBS?
One of Australia’s major medical insurers is charging doctors who administer the pill the same amount of insurance as they do for a surgical abortion. This pushes insurance costs up, which are then passed on to the consumer.
The clinics are also charging more, taking into consideration complete treatment plans (including ultrasounds before and after the drug has been taken).
Previously, Mamamia spoke to, Maria Deveson Crabbe, the CEO of the Marie Stopes International group in Australia. She pointed out that although the cost of the drugs themselves had fallen, it failed to cover the total cost of the procedure.
Deveson Crabbe explained that, “It is important to remember however, that the cost of the drugs is only part of the costs involved in obtaining a medical termination. Other cost areas include medical practitioner consultation fees, ultrasound costs, blood tests or other tests if required.”
“Whilst it is unlikely that women will be able to access a medical abortion for the cost of the drugs alone,” Deveson Crabbe further explained, “We do expect that over time, the overall cost of a termination will decrease as more medical providers incorporate it into their local practices.”
Hopefully, over time, the cost of using RU486 falls for women in Australia. Women deserve affordable and accessible reproductive health services.
And women who cannot afford an abortion, are perhaps the least likely to be able to afford to raise a child.
Were you aware that the cost of RU486 in Australia was still quite high? Do you think that the cost of the drug needs to be lowered for people in vulnerable groups?