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Since 1972, Children by Choice has been providing pregnancy counselling, information, referral and support services for women in Queensland experiencing unplanned pregnancy. In the past ten years, an ever-increasing part of our work has been providing and sourcing financial assistance for disadvantaged women, who have expressed their wish to access an abortion but are unable to do so.

Women experiencing disadvantage will often need to source financial and other types of assistance from multiple sources, in order to raise the funds necessary for a pregnancy termination. This process can take significant amounts of time and energy for both women and their support workers, and in many cases information on where to turn for assistance can be hard to find.

The aim of this resource is to assist community and health services, and professionals working in these services, to grow their capacity for assisting women to source the support they may need in order to exercise their choice. It is based on the expertise Children by Choice staff have acquired over more than ten years of intensive financial assistance advocacy and support on behalf of our clients.

While this guide is not intended to be exhaustive, it does provide information and referral details for pathways Children by Choice has used to help source assistance for clients as a starting point for workers and services to explore.

 

How does the Children by Choice financial assistance program operate?

Our financial assistance program comprises of three main arms: small one-off donations to women from our Relief Fund, our No Interest Loan Scheme, and outside assistance. There are eligibility criteria for each listed here

It is important to note that we cannot fund the entirety of any one woman's abortion procedure, or provide support to each woman who requests it. The demand is simply too great and our resources too small to enable us to do this. Check out the details of our financial assistance program.

For many women, a combination of a Relief Fund donation, help from family and/or friends, assistance from other organisations, and other measures are often necessary to raise the funds they need. 

We can also help with:

  • In-depth counselling for your clients if they want or need it.
  • Information for you or your service on possible avenues to explore for extra client support.
  • More information on any of the strategies listed below.

Contact us if you would like any further information.

 

Sourcing other forms of assistance

Below are some of the avenues Children by Choice may explore with clients or workers when seeking to facilitate access to abortion services. 

In the vast majority of financial assistance cases, a combination of the following approaches is adopted depending on the client’s circumstances. In some cases a large number of the following avenues are explored simultaneously or one after the other. This can involve several phone or face to face contacts with each individual client and often requires several hours of case work with the client and other services in order for the client to access the sum she needs to access a procedure.

Direct client support

The strategies that follow can be explored by either the client herself or a worker on behalf of a client.

Raise funds from the woman’s personal support network 

Depending on the client, this may include work colleagues, family, friends and the man involved in the pregnancy.

Issues to be aware of:

  • Clients may be reluctant to ask for assistance because of fears they may be judged.
  • Privacy concerns are also big for some women: if they tell one member of the family, will everyone find out etc.
  • Young women may be particularly concerned about parental reaction to the pregnancy or to finding out about sexual activity.
  • Of Children by Choice’s financial assistance clients, less than 20% receive any support from the man involved in the pregnancy. This is not always an option for client assistance, particularly in cases of DV or sexual assault and often the offer of money from the man can be withdrawn at the last moment as a practice of manipulation and control.
  • Many women who contact us are largely only connected to others on low incomes.
  • Small amounts of money from a number of friends and family could be requested without the purpose being disclosed (eg, $20 for “formula”).

Reschedule payments on rent or other bills

Most utilities companies are willing to organise payment plans for bills if approached before it is overdue.

Issues to be aware of:

  • The Home Energy Emegency Assistance Scheme may be able to provide for further financial assistance in the aftermath of the termination costs. This scheme, administered by the Queensland Government and energy providers, provides one-off emergency assistance to low-income households. To be eligible for assistance, households must have experienced a short-term financial crisis or unforeseen emergency, within the past 12 months, limiting their ability to pay their current electricity and/or reticulated natural gas account. Assistance can only be provided once in any 12 month period and may only be provided for two consecutive years:

"To be eligible you must:

  • hold a current concession card in the name shown on your electricity or gas bill, or
  • be part of your energy retailer’s hardship program or payment plan, or
  • have an income less than the Australian Government’s maximum income rate for part-age pensioners. Contact Centrelink for details of the maximum income rate.

Full eligibility details, including the types of emergency situations you might get help for, are available from your energy retailer. For more information, or to apply, contact your energy retailer.” 

Check the Queensland Government website for more information

Rent may be more difficult to arrange depending on the willingness of real estate/landlords to be flexible. Exploring rental history can help to determine the extent to which this strategy may be worth considering without putting the woman’s tenancy at risk.

If bills are paid automatically through Centrelink, clients will need a few days in time in order to suspend payments through this system.

Sell or pawn items to raise funds

This option obviously depends on whether women have disposable assets or items of value they may be able to do without for a period of time.

Issues to be aware of:

  • Whether the client is old enough to enter into a pawn contract with a reputable broker.
  • Pawn brokers are notoriously exploitative and the longer term consequences for such strategies may leave the woman in significant hardship, losing some items if she does not have the capacity to keep up with payments.

Wages advance

Some employers may be willing to discuss this option if it is due to a medical procedure.

Issues to be aware of:

  • Workplace privacy concerns could be a factor in women’s willingness to explore this option.

Credit card or bank account overdraft or loan

Issues to be aware of:

  • If client does not have steady income this option is unlikely to proceed. Some banks have quite quick online approval systems. A family member’s credit card might also be used with details given over the phone on the day of the procedure - check with your closest abortion provider prior to the day of procedure, as not all clinics offer this option.

Access Centrelink support through crisis payments

Issues to be aware of:

  • Crisis payments are available through Centrelink to assist women to leave a violent relationship in some circumstances; these can be difficult to access due to strict criteria that must be satisfied, and have strict timeframes attached.
  • Women already receiving benefits may be eligible for an advance payment through Centrelink if they’ve not accessed this already in the preceding 12 months. Repayments are then deducted from ongoing benefits automatically.
  • Early payments can sometimes be negotiated as well. Support from social workers within the Centrelink system will probably be needed to negotiate this.

Access Superannuation early

In some circumstances people can access superannuation early on compassionate grounds for medical treatment. See the following link for eligibility and application process: 

Issues to be aware of:

  • Again, the application process and decision making timeframe can rule this option out, unless the client presents early in pregnancy and can afford to wait a couple of weeks to receive funds.

Direct price negotiation with termination provider

Issues to be aware of:

  • Some clinics offer a small reduction in price for Health Care Card holders; usually around $50 off the cost (or less).
  • Clinics are unlikely to reduce the cost of a termination in cases only involving poverty, although they may be more receptive if there are other extenuating circumstances eg domestic violence, sexual assault, risk of homelessness etc.

Access Emergency Relief funds

Emergency Relief (ER) are federal funds administered by community organisations that enable money to be provided to clients in need at the organisation’s discretion.

Issues to be aware of:

  • In Queensland the vast majority of ER funds are administered by faith-based organisations, which are unlikely to support a client to access an abortion.
  • However, Children by Choice clients have been successful in securing ER support from these organisations by telling them they are undergoing a ‘medical procedure’; in these cases faith-based orgs may provide financial assistance for housing, food costs, or other daily living expenses to allow the client to use their own money for the procedure itself.

No Interest Loan Schemes

Only a smally number of providers of No Interest Loans offer loans for medical purposes; additionally, timeframes for organisational decision-making often rule this out as an option, unless the client presents early in pregnancy and can afford to wait a couple of weeks to receive funds.

Check nearby NILS providers on the program's website.

Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme

Women in rural and regional areas who have to travel to access a procedure not provided by their local health district/hospital are eligible for financial assistance through the Queensland Government’s Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme (PTSS). The Queensland Health website provides the following information:  

“The Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme (PTSS) provides assistance to patients, and in some cases their carers, to enable them to access specialist medical services that are not available locally. 

A subsidy is provided to approved patients and carers (escorts) to assist in the cost of travel and accommodation to the nearest specialist medical service that is more than 50 km from the patient’s nearest hospital. An application form must be completed and forwarded to the hospital nearest to the patient’s place of residence. These hospitals are responsible for all aspects of patient travel, and inquiries regarding the subsidy should be directed to these facilities.

A medical practitioner must refer the patient to the specialist medical service.“

More information and application forms are available from the PTSS website.

Issues to be aware of:

  • Barriers to accessing this support have included:
  • Inability to get a GP referral due to an unsupportive GP or privacy concerns (common in smaller communities);
  • Mistaken belief of health workers that termination isn’t covered by PTSS (it is);
  • Unsupportive/anti-choice Medical Superintendents refusing to sign off on PTSS support for abortion travel. 

Travel interstate or overseas

If the client is from another Australian state it may be cheaper for her to travel home for the procedure. This is particularly the case for New South Wales; if the client has family or friends she can stay with close to a clinic there is often a significant cost saving to be made, even after flights are paid for.

Issues to be aware of:

  • Some states and countries have residency requirements, ie women will have to provide evidence they live in the jurisdiction in question before being able to access an abortion. For example, most terminations in South Australia are provided free through the public health system, but women must be able to prove they have lived in the state for two months prior to the procedure.
  • If the client is on holiday or working in Australia it may be cheaper and easier to travel home for the procedure, depending on her country of origin.
  • Most international students and tourists are not covered by Medicare and face extremely high out of pocket costs to access an abortion in Queensland. Sometimes this is fully or partly covered by their travel insurance, and some travellers or those born overseas but living in Australia may have access to reciprocal Medicare coverage; it is worth encouraging clients to explore these options if they have not already done so.

Victim Assist

Victim Assist is a Queensland Government program that provides financial assistance to victims of violent crime to get their lives back on track. The legislation that underpins Victim Assist identifies pregnancy as an injury that can result from the violent crime of rape. More information in available on their website including the prescribed medical certificate and application forms. If you are outside Queensland, check with your state government as most jurisdictions have similar schemes available to assist victims of violent crime.

Issues to be aware of:

  • Whilst police involvement is not always necessary, the application process is lengthy and often decisions can not be made until after the procedure has been done.
  • Abortion clinic doctors are able to sign off on the required medical certificate, and have been willing to do so for some Children by Choice clients.

Within your own organisation

Organisational funds/Emergency Relief

  • Does your organisation have any discretional funds used for client support?
  • What are the criteria for access?
  • If it can’t be used for medical procedures, is there any other type of assistance you could provide?
  • If your organisation operates a NILS program, does it include medical costs and is the decision-making timeframe quick enough to consider?

Brokerage with other services

Other organisations working in your community or area of expertise may also have funds available to support clients even if the client is not already accessing support from that organisation.

Issues to be aware of:

  • Identifying any special circumstances with the client’s situation may help in identifying possible avenues of support. Domestic violence (DV) services will sometimes support a client experiencing DV to access termination, even if they are not a client or outside the service’s catchment. The same is true for youth/sexual assault/ATSI services etc.
  • Applying to another organisation for help is a positive step as it can result in a great opportunity to educate workers about the issues facing women in relation to abortion access, even if it doesn’t result in financial assistance being provided to your client. Workers in other services may be encouraged to take on the status quo in their own organisations and challenge as to why this assistance is not provided. This can also result in the client being able to access other services or supports for other issues, for example domestic violence or housing. 

Challenge the status quo

  • If your organisation doesn’t provide this support but has the capacity to, why not? What can you do about it?
  • If your funding body does not allow you to use brokerage in this way how might you challenge this? Some cases with extenuating circumstances may be eligible for a procedure in the public health system.

Contact us if you would like any further information on any of these strategies.

Last modified on: 04 July 2016
Financial assistance for abortion
04 July 2016

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