Controversial push for nurses and midwives to be able to hand out ‘abortion pills’ in place of doctors gains traction

A push for nurses and midwives to be granted the power to hand out medical ‘abortion pills’ is gaining traction with a major medical firm lobbying for the move.
MS Health, a subsidiary of MSI Australia and the company that imports the drug known as RU486, hope the move will make the pills more accessible.
Currently only 10 per cent of doctors across the country can prescribe the two courses of the abortion pills containing misoprostol and mifepristone.
The Labor government has said it will welcome any proposals that improve the accessibility of the medication as it strives to set a national standard for abortions.
The leading provider of abortion services will apply to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to modify who has the right to administer terminations.Western Australian the only state or territory where abortion still falls under the criminal code with the state’s health minister last month admitting abortion rules were outdated but has made no promises to make any immediate changes.
In WA, those seeking an abortion after 20 weeks must face an ‘ethics panel’ consisting of six medical practitioners.
Two of the panellists have to agree that either the mother or the fetus has a severe medical condition that will justify ending the pregnancy – forcing many women to travel interstate to safely end their pregnancies.
The WA Labor government last month followed the rest of the states and territories and legislated safe access zones for those seeking an abortion. Under current national rules, abortions can be performed within the nine weeks of pregnancy.MS Health’s Operations Manager Adam Pirie said he wanted to make abortion pills more accessible, especially for women in remote or regional areas.
Mr Pirie told The Australian only certified doctors are currently allowed to prescribe the medication with hopes this can be widened to nurses and midwives.
‘Effectively, we will be removing one roadblock that prevents nurses, midwives and other healthcare practitioners from prescribing the medical abortion pills,’ he said.
‘It will then be up to states and territories, and various regulatory bodies to define who can administer the medication.’
Assistant Health Minister Ged Kearney, a former nurse, has welcomed the new Risk Management Plan which will be lodged with the TGA in the coming months.
The TGA will then need to approve the plan and potentially modify state laws that prevent nurses in some jurisdictions from prescribing some medications. Ms Kearney said access to affordable termination is a ‘crucial part of healthcare’.
‘In light of Roe vs Wade and the changing of abortion rights in the US, I know many Australian women are concerned about access to termination,’ she said.
Medical abortion medication costs $42.50 under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme however stimates reveal women can spend up to $350. Greens Senate Leader Larissa Waters has called for the medication to be prescribed two weeks later, within 11 weeks of the pregnancy.
Ms Waters has called on the Albanese government to support ‘nurse-led models of care’ for administering the abortion pills. Earlier this month, Australians took to the streets in solidarity marches following the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade – with 27 US states either banning or threatening to criminalising abortions.
While much of the attention is on America, there is still work to be done on abortion access at home, contraception and safe abortion providers, MSI Australia says.
‘The events taking place in the US are devastating for human rights. Fortunately, we are not at risk of having abortion bans in Australia but we do need increased access and equity to abortion care services,’ MSI managing director Jamal Hakim says.
Roe v Wade was a landmark 1973 decision where the US Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution of the United states protects a person’s liberty to have an abortion.
It was overturned by the conservative majority court last month – paving the way for US states to be allowed to go their own way.

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