Increased Access To Abortion Services

Nurse Practitioners and authorised midwives will be able to prescribe abortion medication under legislation passed in the ACT Legislative Assembly today.

The Health (Improved Abortion Access) Amendment Act ll 2024 removes barriers to nurse practitioners and authorised midwives prescribing abortion medication, which can currently only be done by doctors.

This follows positive changes made by the Therapeutic Good Administration last year to remove restrictions on health practitioners who prescribe and dispense the abortion medication MS-2 Step (mifepristone and misoprostol).

The Bill also requires health practitioners who decline to participate in the provision of abortion services on religious or other conscientious grounds, to refer individuals to another practitioner or facility in a timely manner or to give their patients information about how to find such a provider.

The amendments in relation to conscientious objection bring the ACT into line with other states and territories – balancing the need for timely abortion care with the right of health practitioners to not participate in the provision of services that conflict with their religious or personal beliefs.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said ensuring equitable and timely access to safe and legal abortion aligns with Labor's ongoing commitment to quality health care for all Canberrans.

"I am proud that the ACT continues to implement changes that improve access to safe and legal abortions," Minister Stephen-Smith said.

"Women and people who can become pregnant should be able to make decisions about their health care based on what is best for them and their body.

"The number of abortion service providers has been highlighted as a barrier to timely access. Improved access to abortion services will allow Canberra women to obtain appropriate, safe care, and to avoid potentially detrimental impacts to their mental and physical health and wellbeing.

"This change also supports the Government's ongoing work to ensure that Canberra's highly skilled nurse practitioners and authorised midwives can work to their full scope of practice."

The amendments complement the ACT Government's accessible abortions scheme, which supports the provision of no-cost abortions and free long-acting reversible contraceptives at the time of abortion to ACT residents, including those without access to Medicare.

These no-cost services have been available through MSI Australia since April 2023, and more recently include participating general practices, pharmacies, pathology services and medical imaging services across the Territory.

"Making abortions free supports people to make their own decisions about their healthcare without worrying about the financial burden or how to access a service," Minister Stephen-Smith said.

"The ACT Government is committed to continuing to work with healthcare providers across the ACT to ensure abortion services are safe and accessible."

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