A Wodonga doctor says the NSW-Victorian border closure has created "a lot of distress" for women travelling from the Riverina to access medical abortions.
Under the current border restrictions any NSW resident choosing to seek medical attention in Victoria will be required to self-isolate upon their return.
Amanda Cohn is a doctor at Wodonga's Gateway Health clinic which can provide medical terminations for Wagga women who might otherwise struggle to access them.
Dr Cohn said the border closure meant "extra hoops to jump through" for women seeking time-critical medical terminations, which can only be provided for pregnancies of up to nine weeks.
"Patients are still able to cross the NSW Victorian border for health reasons, but there have been cases where, say, the support person who was driving them would have to self-isolate, and that was a real barrier for some people to access the service," she said.
"For something that is a sensitive reason to be travelling for some people, potentially having to discuss that with Service NSW or with the Police is a perceived barrier for some people."
The Daily Advertiser spoke to one Wagga woman who recently had to drive herself to Canberra to have a medical abortion because her local GP "didn't know" how to provide her with information on how to access a medical abortion nearer to home.
Anne* said her GP wrote her a list of some reproductive health clinics in Sydney, but finding her a local doctor who could prescribe a medical abortion was "never a conversation".
Anne discovered she was pregnant in May at the height of the coronavirus lockdown and said she she felt sick and alone when confronted with her limited options in Wagga.
"[I was] despondent almost, like 'How did this happen here?' ... I knew how difficult it was and how this place was controlled," she said.
Anne found out she was pregnant after only two weeks and was therefore a suitable candidate for a medical abortion.
A medical abortion involves the drugs Mifepristone (RU486) and Misoprostol, which are taken in sequence after being prescribed by a doctor.
There are few GPs in Wagga who are able to prescribe a medical abortion, according to figures from the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network.
As Anne had recently returned to live in Wagga she visited her mother's GP to ask him what her options were for accessing a termination.
"He said, 'I don't really know'. He told me there was a suggestion of getting trained [to prescribe medical abortions] at that practice but he wasn't interested," she said.
"He was so lovely so I feel really guilty and I feel a bit bad ... but then at the same time he didn't provide the right kind of care for me.
"I don't know if it's an indictment of him specifically or just the culture in Wagga."
Anne ended up making an appointment with her former GP in Canberra and drove there alone, to stay with friends while she had a medical abortion at a private clinic in the city.
Anne said she wanted to see objecting or non-credentialed Wagga GPs refer women onto another local doctor able to prescribe a medical abortion, to save vulnerable people a time consuming and cost-prohibitive trip to Canberra or Sydney.
"It just makes an already stressful situation more stressful that you can't do it in your home, where you're comfortable and you feel safe," she said.
"You don't want to do this on purpose. It's a traumatic thing to go through ... it's not easy."
The nearest place to access a medical abortion if a woman is not able to find a prescription in Wagga is at Gateway Health in Wodonga.
Dr Cohn said Gateway Health continued to operate despite border closure complications.
"If there are people in the Wagga region who need medical termination of pregancy and would like to speak to us, we're definitely happy for people to ring and to discuss their needs on a case by case basis," Dr Cohn said.
"It may still be possible to provide some services by telehealth where appropriate but because there's no medicare rebate anymore, a fee might have to apply."
*Anne asked not to disclose her full name for privacy reasons