Lack of certified prescribers limiting women’s access to timely and local reproductive health care

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Lack of certified MS-2 Step prescribers, the medication for an early medical abortion, is limiting women’s access to timely and local reproductive health care

Written by Jess Elsworth, Sexual and Reproductive Health Officer, WHISE
11/12/2020

An important part of a women’s sexual and reproductive health care is access to early medical abortion (under nine weeks’ gestation). In Victoria, the Abortion Law Reform (2008) and the introduction of RU486 (MS-2 Step) listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in 2013, anticipated an increase in equitable access to abortion services. However, due to the low number of GPs in primary care who are prescribers of MS-2 Step, a majority of medical abortions are accessed in the private sector, where the procedure is expensive. 

A study found one in three women seeking an abortion found it “difficult” or “very difficult” to finance the procedure.

It is estimated that approximately 4% of GPs in Australia are prescribers of MS-2 Step, the medication for an early medical abortion.

Numerous barriers exist for GPs to provide medical abortion. These include limited opportunities for education and training, lack of support from peers and the broader health system and real and perceived stigma related to outdated culture norms.

In response to consultation with the sexual and reproductive health hubs and analysis of region based data, Women’s Health in the South East, The Royal Women’s, Peninsula Health, Monash Health and 1800 My Options worked collaboratively for 18 months to deliver medical abortion information sessions targeted to GPs in the Southern Metropolitan region (SMR).

To collect important local insights into health practitioners’ views around the barriers, as well as motivating factors for those interested in becoming a provider of medical abortion, participants who attended the information session completed an online survey. 

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A key finding was a willingness to improve their medical abortion knowledge and skill to consider becoming a medical abortion provider with appropriate supports in place.

GPs are the most visited primary care provider in Australia and they are well positioned to deliver integrated reproductive health care to women.

For more information, read the full report.