When I Phoned to Book an Abortion

by Peta Simpson

Sometimes the truth is so ugly, we think it may be better not to know. But truth is power, and knowing thy enemy is an important concept. What follows is a snapshot of when I phoned purportedly to book an abortion in Queensland. I will declare the experience had me sick to the stomach – it was easier than making an appointment to get the car serviced.
A very “helpful” website is: http://www.childrenbychoice.org.au/if-youre-pregnant/im-considering-an-abortion/clinics-queensland

Family Planning Qld told me “we don’t provide the service, but we have a little referral list”. I spoke to a lady at a clinic that is part of a much larger group, who told me she’s “not medically trained to answer my questions, she just takes the bookings” (and was keen to do so). She did make a point of correcting my language from “my baby”, to “the pregnancy tissue”. She explained that the first step is to know exactly how far the pregnancy is, to know which procedure and which clinic and at what cost. Relaying details of the cost was the bigger concern for her, and I was advised Medicare rebates are available, with health care or concession card benefits. At 16 weeks pregnancy, it’s a two-day procedure for about $2,000. 19 weeks and 6 days it’s $7,050 and after that, you have to go interstate.

I asked her if it was legal in Queensland, that I’d heard it wasn’t, and she said, “Absolutely, we have five clinics in Queensland”. In Queensland, abortion is a crime under the Queensland Criminal Code.

The receptionist at a second place was very brisk with giving me all the practicalities of the procedure, and was focused on booking me in. I hesitated saying I needed to think about it, and she advised I could leave a message on the answer machine overnight to book in for the procedure the next day. Alternatively, she assured me, they had appointments available next week – but the sedation meant I’d have to organize a lift.

In a manner that could be used to describe a coffee order, she rattled off the following: At 12-13 weeks pregnancy, the cost is $580, at 13-14 weeks it’s $780. They can’t do it past 16 weeks “but there are other clinics in Queensland”. The actual procedure takes 15-20 minutes, but you could be in the clinic 3-5 hours. They’re a private clinic and no Medicare rebate is available, however rebates may be available under private health cover. I asked if there’d be anyone there trying to talk me out of it and she said no, but that there is someone there to offer unbiased counselling. I was not however, offered an appointment. I asked about the baby and she calmly responded it would get incinerated. I said “no, what happens to it during the procedure – is it anaesthetized?” She said “You are anesthetized, and it’s thought the baby gets it through you”.

At no stage was I offered counselling to discuss my situation, nor the ramifications of a decision to terminate. I was not given an option to explore carrying the baby to term. My health and the baby’s health were never questioned. The father’s involvement in this life decision was not questioned. Perhaps some of that would come into play should I walk in the building, or perhaps “informed consent” is relegated to a tick box on a form.

Mums seeking to “terminate pregnancy tissue” need more opportunities to understand their options. And the babies they carry need more obstacles for their mothers to be sure of the consequences they’re signing up to.

Peta Simpson recently relocated to Sydney to take up a position as Rev Fred Nile’s Research Officer.