Women in the ACT will be able to access the abortion pill RU486 over the phone or through a GP’s prescription, as in other states and territories, under a Bill to be introduced to the Legislative Assembly this week by the Greens.
Described as medical abortion, RU486, a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol that blocks the action of the hormone progesterone, can be prescribed elsewhere in Australia by licensed medical professionals, including GPs and nurses. Women can obtain it through a phone consultation without visiting a clinic.
The Greens say medical abortion provides a safe, accessible and private means of terminating an early pregnancy with medication, but at present women in the ACT must travel interstate to obtain RU486, if they do not wish to use the Marie Stopes clinic, where it costs about $500. It can cost half that amount across the border through prescription.
They say under current ACT legislation, abortions must be performed in an “approved facility”, which is currently limited to Marie Stopes and the Canberra Hospital.
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The Health (Improving Abortion Access) Amendment Bill 2018 seeks to ensure that termination procedures can be carried out by all doctors and nurse practitioners, as is the case in other jurisdictions.
It also ensures that a doctor or nurse must not refuse to carry out, or to assist in carrying out, an abortion in an emergency where a woman’s health is in danger.
Under the Bill, a doctor or nurse must inform patients if they are exercising their right to conscientiously object to performing an abortion.
It clarifies the Health Act to ensure those who undertake a medical abortion are not inadvertently criminalised, and provides for gender-neutral language, recognising that persons who do not identify as women may be capable of being pregnant, and seeking an abortion.
The Greens spokesperson for Women, Caroline Le Couteur said it was not acceptable that Canberra women were forced to travel interstate to access medical abortions.
“No matter where a person lives, they should be able to exercise their reproductive health rights,” she said.
“We welcome contributions from both the ALP and the Liberal Party on this important public health issue, and hope that they too will back women’s rights in the Territory in voting for this Bill.”
In Australia, a medication abortion can be performed up until nine weeks of pregnancy.