PBS drugs include abortion pill

The latest update to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) on Sunday has seen 17 new or amended listings. Federal Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek, announced the listings which will cost $1 billion over the next four years and will be available to patients at heavily discounted prices from August 2013.

One of Julia Gillard’s last acts as Prime Minister was signing off on the controversial abortion pill RU486 which can cost up to $800. But under the scheme, the pill will cost less than $37. Through clinics RU486 has been used by over 22,000 women to terminate a pregnancy up to 49 days (seven weeks) gestation.

Ms Plibersek says that adding RU486 to the PBS gives women slightly more choice and more options at an extremely difficult time in their life.

Right To Life president Margaret Tighe was quick to respond to the announcement by saying the decision was a “gross abuse of power” by the government and that “The PBS is designed to include life-saving drugs”.

While RU486 will be in the media spotlight, an anti-stroke medication, skin cancer drug ipilimumab, late-stage prostate cancer treatment abiraterone and breast cancer medication vinorelbine were also added to the list.

Read more from the ABC
Read the facts about RU486 

PBS a life-saver for many

The PBS is one of the most important government schemes available in Australia and continues to be under-recognised by the general public for what it provides. Without the PBS, many break-through drugs to treat cancer patients and extend quality of life would be out of the reach of the average Australian. Even some of the more common drugs which otherwise would have been too expensive for most pensioners due to limited income have been made affordable through the scheme.

With abortion being legal in all eight states and territories of Australia, the addition of the abortion drug RU486 to the PBS seems to be a logical move by the Federal Government. Unfortunately, this addition to the PBS has been overshadowed by the comments of Right To Life president Margaret Tighe. I can only imagine how hard the decision to terminate a pregnancy can be and anything which makes it a little easier, especially making the treatment affordable, is a step forward. While adding RU486 to the PBS isn’t an abuse of power, making outrageous, ill-informed and biased comments to newspapers seems excessive.

We live in an Australia where every person does have the right to an opinion which will most certainly differ from the next person in line, but these opinions, such as Margaret Tighe’s, should never stand in the way of progressive and affordable treatments.

I am proud of what looks to be a well-measured act from former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s government. What do you think? Will this go unnoticed on her record as PM?

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