Marie Stopes Australia will close their abortion clinic in Newcastle, New South Wales. The organisation – the largest provider of abortion services in the Hunter Region up until now – stated that “physical clinics in regional areas are no longer financially viable”.
Last month the organisation also announced the closure of four of its Queensland clinics. The clinics, located in Townsville, Rockhampton, Southport and Newcastle, employed over 40 staff and performed around 5,000 abortions annually.
The Newcastle Clinic’s staff had pushed for the state government to provide a grant so the clinic could continue to offer medical and surgical abortions, and more than 7,200 signed an online petition to keep the clinic open.
Marie Stopes Australia’s Managing director Jamal Hakim described the closures as “a really difficult decision“.
He explained: “Costs, when it comes to sexual reproductive health care and particularly delivery of abortion care, continue to increase and COVID hasn’t helped”.
He went on: “The stigma as well means it’s difficult to continue to find a workforce”.
In 2020, Marie Stopes chartered flights to connect people and its abortion clinics in Rockhampton and Townsville throughout the pandemic.
Mr Hakim explained that the organisation will now focus on expanding its ‘DIY’ medical abortion program.
A history of racism and eugenics
It was only in November 2020 that Marie Stopes International was renamed “MSI Reproductive Choices” due to Stopes’ well-documented views on eugenics, despite the company claiming that “The name of the organisation has been a topic of discussion for many years”.
For reasons that are unclear, Marie Stopes Australia has not changed its name.
In the wake of this change, the organisation was ridiculed due to its new name’s resemblance to the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), the Italian Social Movement. The party was formed in 1946 by supporters of the former Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. MSI is regarded as a successor of Mussolini’s Republican Fascist Party (PFR).
Marie Stopes publicly advocated for the involuntary sterilisation of several groups she deemed unfit for parenthood, including people with disabilities, addicts, ‘subversives’, criminals, and those of mixed ethnic origin. Stopes even wrote her own son out of her will because he married a woman who had bad eyesight.
In her writings, Stopes called for laws that allowed the forced sterilisation of what she described as the “hopelessly rotten and racially diseased” and wrote fiercely against interracial marriage. She also corresponded with Adolf Hitler, and in August 1939 enclosed a book of her love poems to him.
Profits prioritised over patients
As Rachel Wong, CEO of Women’s Forum Australia has written in The Spectator, in 2010 Marie Stopes International partnered with Dr Mark Schulberg at his clinic in Croydon (a suburb of Melbourne) a few months after it was reported that 44 women had been infected with hepatitis C at the clinic under Dr Schulberg’s oversight. Schulberg had also been found guilty of professional misconduct in 2009 after failing to gain legal consent to perform a late-term abortion on a woman with an intellectual disability.
After partnering with MSI, the clinic continued to attract controversy after a woman died from a late-term abortion performed by Schulberg. Another was sent to hospital in a critical condition. Schulberg was struck off the medical register in 2013 for inappropriately prescribing patients with addictive drugs for nearly a decade.
In 2017, a damning report from the UK’s Care Quality Commission (CQC) accused Marie Stopes International (now MSI Reproductive Choices) of paying staff bonuses for persuading women to have abortions.
At all 70 Marie Stopes clinics, inspectors from the Care Quality Commission found evidence of a policy that saw staff utilise a high-pressure sales tactic, calling women who had decided against having an abortion to offer them another appointment.
Another report in 2017 showed that nearly 400 botched abortions were carried out in two months at Marie Stopes clinics. The report also outlined that in another three-month period, 11 women needed emergency transfers to hospital after difficulties at facilities run by the abortion provider.
In 2016, Marie Stopes International was forced to suspend abortion services for a month after an unannounced inspection by the CQC found 2,600 safety flaws at Marie Stopes International abortion clinics in the UK including doctors going home and leaving women under sedation to be supervised by nurses and healthcare assistants, fetuses being put in waste bins rather than cremated and staff trying to give a vulnerable, visibly distressed woman an abortion without her consent.
The inspectors also found that almost half of nurses working at the clinics had not been trained to do resuscitation, safety incidents including medical blunders and equipment failures had increased by a third in a year and doctors were signing off up to 60 consent forms at a time when they were meant to be making a thorough assessment. One doctor filled in up to 26 consent forms in two minutes.
A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said: “We are thrilled to hear of yet another clinic closing in Australia. Any sign that the abortion industry is failing is a sign that people are hesitant to fund or work for an organisation that is responsible for such a sinister practice, and be involved with an organisation that has a demonstrable track record of safeguarding issues across both Australia and the UK. Women deserve better than abortion, and money is better spent supporting them in crisis situations than it is funding the ending of thousands of lives”.