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Monday, 20 August 2001
Page: 29797

Mr Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Aged Care, upon notice, on 7 December 2000:

(1) Further to the answer to question No. 1441 (Hansard, 6 September 2000, page 20370), is it in the public interest to know what percentage of operations under items 34643 and 16525 result in pregnancy termination.

(2) Further to part (3) of his answer, is he willing to introduce new item codes that separate that percentage of operations procured under Item 34643 and 16525 for curettage of uterus which separates those operations that do, and do not, procure a miscarriage; if so, when will the introduction of new item codes take place.

(3) Is he able to estimate the number of late term (terminations occurring on or after the twentieth week of pregnancy) pregnancy abortions that are committed in Australia each year; if not, why not.

Dr Wooldridge (Minister for Health and Aged Care) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Although the question refers to Item 34643, I assume the honourable member is referring to Item 35643.

Medicare benefits are payable for clinically relevant services. In paying Medicare benefits, the Government assumes that the service was clinically relevant and preformed in accordance with professional standards and relevant State law, unless a medical board or court decision deems otherwise. Medicare does not record the reasons for a termination, the stage of pregnancy nor the method of abortion. Medicare statistics do not include information that would allow the calculation of the percentage of services provided under item 16525 and 35643 for termination of pregnancy. The matter of whether or not it is in the public interest to know what percentage of these services result in pregnancy termination, would be based on value judgements and would have to be considered in the context of competing public interests.

(2) No.

(3) No it is not possible to estimate the number of late term pregnancy abortions that occur in Australia each year. Medicare does not record the stage of pregnancy nor as stated previously, information on the number of services provided under Item 16525 and 35643 which result in termination of pregnancy.