Expansion of Access to Medical Abortion Welcome Amid Calls for Further Work to Address Remaining Barriers to a Safe, Legal and Common Health Service
Women’s Health in the South East (WHISE) welcomes the decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to amend the prescribing and dispensing restrictions on medical abortion. The move is a significant step towards improving access to abortion in Australia.
“This is a milestone for reproductive rights,” says WHISE CEO, Kit McMahon.
“These changes are the culmination of tireless advocacy by many of our partners, including MS Health, and indeed, by the Victorian Women’s Health Services.”
Until now, doctors were required to undergo additional training in order to prescribe the medications used to induce a medical abortion, Mifepristone and Misoprostol, also known as MS 2-Step. Pharmacists were required to register as providers.
From August this year, any healthcare provider with appropriate qualifications and training, including all doctors and nurse practitioners, will be able to prescribe. Restrictions on pharmacists have also been removed.
MS 2-Step is available for up to nine weeks’ gestation in Victoria. It is a safe, legal and effective process for terminating an unwanted pregnancy.
Medical abortion was introduced to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in 2012, with the intention of increasing access to abortion. However, it is estimated that less than ten per cent of practicing general practitioners in Australia are currently certified to prescribe medical abortion. It is unknown how many are actively providing this service to patients.
Not-for-profit pharmaceutical company MS Health, part of MSI Australia, led an application to the TGA to remove restrictions to prescribing and dispensing Mifepristone and Misoprostol. While the regulatory changes to prescribing and dispensing medical abortion are critical to increasing access to abortion across Victoria, significant barriers remain. This is evidenced by the findings of a recent Senate Inquiry into Universal Access to Reproductive Healthcare.
WHISE was one of hundreds of organisations to present a submission to the Senate Inquiry, calling upon the Federal Government to implement urgently needed reforms to enhance access to abortion.
In addition to recommendations that the TGA remove administrative barriers to essential reproductive products such as medical abortion and contraceptives, WHISE’s submission included recommendations to address other barriers to abortion.
“Further reform is needed to ensure women and gender diverse people can access reproductive services when they need them,” says McMahon.
“Removing this restriction to access is one required change, and there are other barriers that need to be addressed.
“We also need adequate training for pre-service doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists to ensure that our system has the capacity to provide medical abortion, and ongoing health promotion to destigmatise abortion as a safe and routine procedure.
“In addition to this, cost continues to be a major barrier for abortion-seekers. No-cost surgical abortion should be available for any pregnant person when requested in all hospitals in receipt of public funds.”
WHISE works with partners such as Peninsula Health, Monash Health Community, the Royal Women’s Hospital, Sexual Health Victoria and the other Victorian Women’s Health Services to deliver capacity-building for practitioners in medical abortion, long-acting reversible contraception and other reproductive health services.
“WHISE warmly welcomes this reform for all women across Australia and we look forward to continuing to support all governments in the work to provide equitable and safe health care,” says McMahon.
For people seeking their nearest medical abortion provider, please contact 1800 My Options.
For media enquiries, interviews or further information, please contact WHISE Communications Lead, Dos Hetherington on 0412 317 334.