ACT women will be able to go to a General Practitioner or use a telehealth provider to obtain abortion medication from 1 July, when legislation passed last year kicks in.
Previously, women in the ACT would have to travel interstate or visit the Marie Stopes clinic in the city or Canberra Hospital to obtain the two-step medication for what is known as medical abortion, as opposed to a surgical procedure.
The Health (Improving Abortion Access) Amendment Bill 2018 introduced by Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur passed the Legislative Assembly last September, allowing appropriately trained GPs in the ACT to prescribe the medication within nine weeks of pregnancy.
Marie Stopes, which already has an online training facility for doctors and pharmacists, has been contracted to provide face-to-face training to GPs.
It will host a training session for ACT GPs next Tuesday, with more than 35 GPs registered to attend. The training will provide in-depth clinical insights into Medical Termination as well as ongoing support for GPs once they are Registered Prescribers.
Managing Director at Marie Stopes Australia, Jamal Hakim said the legislation would increase access and choice to abortion options for the ACT community.
“Abortion legislation is something that needs to be able to evolve to meet the needs of the community. Over the past year we have seen leadership from the ACT Government and supportive members of the Legislative Assembly in evolving the legislation in the ACT to allow the wider use of medical abortion,” he said.
“Marie Stopes Australia is proud to support this legislative change, and the increased access it provides through local General Practice.”
Minister for Health and Wellbeing Meegan Fitzharris said the change would remove some of the barriers the ACT community faced when looking to access an abortion service.
“It also means a person will be able to choose where they take the prescribed medication, making the process more personal and sensitive to individual circumstances,” she said.
Ms Fitzharris said that previously under the legislation abortions could only be provided at an approved medical facility, such as Marie Stopes, or the Canberra Hospital.
“While people can still self-refer to Marie Stopes at any time, knowing they can go to a local GP or use a telehealth service within nine weeks will give a person peace of mind that a two-step medication can be arranged with a timely appointment close to home,” she said.
Deputy CEO at Women’s Centre for Health Matters, Emma Davidson said last year on RiotACT that some ACT women accessed medical termination of pregnancy via telehealth from The Tabbot Foundation, but had to cross the border into NSW to collect their prescription medicine and take the medicine.
“Studies show that medical termination of pregnancy via telehealth is just as safe for women. In addition, some women find that it is less stressful and more comfortable for them to take the medication at home, and is more discreet than having to take time off work or go to a known specialist clinic to access a termination,” she said.