Women’s Health Victoria calls for national sexual reproductive health information hotline

A leading Victorian women’s health organisation is calling for a national sexual and reproductive information hotline to be established in the wake of a senate inquiry into reproductive health.

Women’s Health Victoria said its free and confidential 1800 My Options service was receiving about 600 calls each month, a 55 per cent increase from 2022.

The initiative, which was launched in 2018, provides people with information about sexual and reproductive health services via phone or website.

Warrnambool woman Emily, who did not want to provide her full name, said she called 1800 My Options after she became unexpectedly pregnant in November.

“Living in a rural town and working around children, I felt unsure about where to go and what kind of responses I would be met with,” she said. 

“The woman I spoke with on the phone was kind and patient.” 

Emily said she was given a “full-run down” of her options from the call-taker, along with specific contacts at local service providers.

“I think the anonymous phone call model is one of the best ways of offering reproductive support, especially rurally where everyone knows everyone.”

Dianne Hill has been chief executive of Women’s Health Victoria since 2019.()

Women’s Health Victoria chief executive Dianne Hill said demand for the hotline had grown significantly since its inception five years ago.

She said about “40 per cent of callers” to 1800 My Options identified as not being able to afford sexual and reproductive health services.

“It’s not just the cost of a [medical or surgical abortion] procedure, it’s also the costs of needing a blood test, dating scan, taking time off work [and] travel,” she said.

Inquiry findings to be released

Women’s Health Victoria was among organisations to make a submission to the senate inquiry into universal access to reproductive healthcare.

As part of its submission, it advocated for the 1800 My Options model be duplicated in other Australian jurisdictions.

Ms Hill said there was “absolute value” in a national hotline that “any woman in Australia could call”, which would then connect a caller to the state-based service. 

“Every state is different, every state has different providers, and I think it’s critical that there’s a state-based service that has that direct relationship with the service system,” Ms Hill said.

Demand for the service has grown about 55 per cent since last year.()

Emily said a service such as 1800 My Options should be “accessible everywhere”, especially in a regional or rural setting.

“People who live further out of town or who haven’t had prior experience with local health services might not be aware of the support that’s available,” she said.

Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearnery said the federal government looked forward to receiving the recommendations from the inquiry.

Recommendations from the inquiry are due to be released this Thursday.

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