in brief: tasmanian pharmacist to boycott abortion drug
A Tasmanian pharmacist, Rod Scaife, has claimed that he will boycott stocking and selling RU486, the controversial abortion drug, if it becomes legal in Tasmania. Scaife’s statement comes after the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee recently recommended that RU486 be covered under the benefits scheme. If the drug is legalised and incorporated in this scheme, a pharmaceutical abortion could cost as little as $11.80 for concession card holders and $36.10 for others, making access to pregnancy termination easier and less invasive for women.
Scaife has questioned whether it will be compulsory for pharmacists to distribute the drug on request, or whether they can refuse, even if a woman has a prescription from a doctor. The recent proposed changes to abortion law in Tasmania would make doctors legally responsible for either assisting women to seek a termination, or at least referring them to another doctor who does agree with the procedure. Scaife’s comments come as no surprise considering the fact that he is a pro-life Christian who believes that life begins at conception. He has demonstrated his radical opposition to abortion by asserting that he will quit the pharmaceutical profession if the distribution of RU486 is made compulsory.
According to Scaife, allowing women to seek safe, effective, affordable and non-invasive termination of unwanted and/or unsustainable pregnancies is ‘a total reversal of the role of a pharmacist.’ This statement is rather jarring when you consider the fact that apocatharies, chemists, midwives and sages have provided herbal and chemical means of abortion and contraception since ancient times.
Glenn Campbell of Family Planning Tasmania supports the introduction of RU486, claiming that it will give women more choice and agency over their reproductive trajectories. Campbell argued against oppositions like Scaife’s, explaining that ‘it’s not the means of procuring a termination that determines whether a woman is going to have one or not.’ This statement is particularly important, in light of the recent abortion debates in Tasmania, because for many who oppose the removal of abortion from the criminal code, ease of access to abortion symbolises some kind of impending genocide, a ‘culture of death’ as religious leaders against abortion in Tasmania have claimed.
As Campbell points out, abortions are rarely used as an irresponsible form of last minute contraception. They are highly deliberated and morally considered decisions that are not just between a woman and her doctor, but also the woman’s family, her partner and other social actors and bodies that simultaneously impact upon and would be impacted by the birth of an unwanted child.
Claire Van Ryn, the poster-girl for Tasmanian religious pro-life anti-abortion body, the Salamanca Declaration, preposterously expropriated Germaine Greer’s statement that ‘abortion is the last in a long line of non-choices,’ using this statement to show how women should be allowed to “choose life.”
I believe Greer really meant that abortion is an unfortunately necessary evil in a system and culture that does not adequately provide safe alternatives and precautions for women. The introduction of RU486, an easily accessible, fairly inexpensive and non-invasive means of attaining an abortion would arguably break the ‘long line of non-choices’ for women, regardless of whether Rob Scaife quits his job.