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Monash Experts: Improving abortion pill access

Following the Senate inquiry into universal access to reproductive healthcare, the federal Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ged Kearney, has announced that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will remove a number of restrictions around prescribing and dispensing of the medical abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol.

Professor Danielle Mazza, Head of General Practice at Monash University, Chief Investigator and Director of SPHERE Centre of Research Excellence in Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health in Primary Care and Australian National Women’s Health Advisory Council special adviser.

The following can be attributed to Professor Mazza:

“This very welcome decision aims to destigmatise and increase access to abortion, and bring Australia into line with countries such as Canada, which in 2017 completely deregulated mifepristone providing evidence not only of continued safety but also a marked increase in the number of providers. Restrictive arrangements since medical abortion became available in Australia in 2012 led to access problems, particularly for women who had limited incomes and/or lived in rural and regional areas.

“Previously, GPs have had to undertake mandatory training and register before they could provide the abortion pill, then re-register every three years. As a result, only about 10 percent of GPs in Australia are registered to prescribe.

“The removal of the need for pharmacists to register to dispense mifepristone means that now all pharmacies will be able to stock and dispense this medication and women won’t have to hunt around to try and find a local pharmacy that does.

“The TGA’s decision will encourage GPs to provide medical abortion, offering women a safe option to use at home. It also enables nurse practitioners to prescribe the abortion pill. This recognises their capacity to deliver women’s sexual and reproductive health care and makes medical abortion more available in areas where women don’t have access to a GP who provides this service. In 2019, this was one third of Australian women and up to 50 per cent in remote areas.

“Much has changed since 2012. The World Health Organization  and others have endorsed nurse-led provision, and Australian providers can access greater support and training. Women also have more information available to them, such as from family planning clinics and the government’s Healthdirect website. Wherever they live women have the right to a safe and easy abortion, and I congratulate the Minister for her commitment to achieving this goal.”

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