A sexual health nurse says Wagga Base Hospital must start offering surgical abortion services as demand for terminations increases.
Lauren Coelli, from Gateway Health, said Albury Wodonga Health was in talks with the Murrumbidgee Health District, encouraging it to offer the procedures on the back of reports of an influx of patients to Victoria.
Gateway Health, based in North East Victoria, began co-ordinating surgical abortion services during the temporary closure of Albury's Englehardt Street clinic in mid-2018.
Ms Coelli said the organisation provided medical terminations and pre-admission services for a surgical abortion, but AWH delivered the surgical procedure.
She said the staff at the Englehardt Street Clinic, which permanently closed in September, advised they had a large number of clients from central NSW.
"We knew it was always possible AWH would potentially have to put a catchment in place [restricting services to wider NSW], depending on where clients are presenting from," she said.
"AWH is now looking at their catchment area and in talks with Wagga and Griffith, who both have public hospitals with gynaecological services that don't offer surgical termination of pregnancy ... to encourage them to offer their own surgical terminations."
Earlier this year, Gateway Health revealed 60 per cent of patients, during the first eight months they began co-ordinating surgical abortion, came from the Murrumbidgee catchment and women made the trip from Griffith, Cootamundra and Wagga.
The NSW Crimes Act means women who access abortion and health practitioners who perform or assist in a procedure face a penalty of up to 10 years' imprisonment.
However, doctors can legally perform abortions if they believe a woman's physical or mental health is at risk. In Victoria, abortions are legal up to 24 weeks and post 24 weeks with doctor's approval.
Ms Coelli said they would continue to see people from anywhere for surgical abortion pre-admission services and refer them onward. She added Griffith and Wagga hospitals should be offering the service.
"We do see a number of people from everywhere, and the reason for that is [there] isn't many surgical termination services in NSW outside Canberra and Sydney," she said.
Ms Coelli argued abortion was a fundamental part of women's health, and the termination of pregnancies should be available in all public hospitals that provide gynaecological services.
A spokesperson from MLHD said discussions started with AWH after an increase in demand for termination services, adding it would communicate with local GPs about options for women in the region.
"Termination of pregnancy is available in some NSW public hospitals, as well as accredited private providers, and non-government organisations across NSW," the spokesperson said.
"The decision for termination of pregnancy is one between an individual woman and her treating practitioner, who may seek further consultation with other specialists.
"Public health facilities generally perform pregnancy terminations for women with the most complex needs.
"This includes women with specific medical conditions and those in advanced pregnancy who require obstetric and midwifery care."
The MLHD spokesperson added in the event a doctor could not provide the service locally, it was an obligation to take reasonable steps to direct a woman to another medical provider.
A spokesperson for AWH said the service has always been supportive of safe, appropriate care delivered locally, wherever possible, with services provided based on clinical need.
"AWH does not discriminate against any person based on where they live," they said.
"AWH is experiencing a recent increase in demand for termination services, and we have been working with other health services, including the MLHD to ensure women receive the care they require."
The spokesperson encouraged women who are seeking termination services to speak to their doctor about accessing the closest and most appropriate services.
'The only choice is interstate'
Advocates for abortion have backed calls to see surgical services offered in Wagga, adding the pressure on country women is unfair.
Sinead Canning, the campaign manager for the NSW Pro-Choice Alliance, said Wagga women should not have to be "shuffled interstate" to Wodonga or Canberra.
"For a surgical abortion, you have to be more than nine weeks pregnant, and you have to take a support person, and you can't drive," she said.
"Women have to take leave, or if they are casuals, they are going to miss out on pay."
Ms Canning said this adds to an already stressful period, making it unacceptable for Wagga not to be offering these services in the public system.
"We need to support them in their local health area. "We are sticking with the same laws from 119 years ago, and that is a huge failure of the government. Wagga is the largest inland city in NSW, and there is a huge gap in services."
According to the NSW Pro-Choice Alliance, one in four women will have an abortion in their lifetime.
"At the moment, women in the Riverina cannot depend on the local hospital to provide these services and women should not have to rely on the private sector," Ms Canning said.
"We need it decriminalised.
"Things won't change overnight, but decriminalisation will help because it will remove the taboo. The taboo means some doctors and some hospitals are really reluctant to take on the risk."
Liz Marmo, spokesperson for We Need Reproductive Rights Rural NSW, has been advocating for a centre in Wagga.
"I cannot believe in 2019 these facilities are not readily available," she said.
"If other states can do it through the public system, there is absolutely no reason why Wagga cannot. In all honesty, NSW should be supporting their residents."