Bill To Improve Access To Abortion Services

Legislation introduced into the ACT Legislative Assembly today will increase the range of health practitioners who can prescribe or supply abortion medication.

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

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

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said access to safe and legal abortion was a human right and that the number of abortion service providers has been highlighted as a barrier to timely access.

“Improved access to abortion services will allow Canberrans to obtain appropriate, safe care, and avoid potentially detrimental impacts to their mental and physical health and wellbeing,” said Minister Stephen-Smith.

“Increasing the range of health professionals who can prescribe abortion medication will improve timely access to safe and respectful abortion services.

“It is also important that highly skilled nurse practitioners and midwives in the ACT are able to work to their full scope of practice.

“The ACT Government’s Nurse Practitioner Taskforce has been looking at the further legislative changes that can be made to provide nurse practitioners every opportunity to fully utilise their skills, training and experience and we are also continuing to progress important reforms for our midwifery workforce through the Maternity in Focus project.”

The Bill will also require authorised health professionals who decline to participate in the provision of abortion services on religious or other conscientious grounds to refer individuals to another practitioner or facility that can provide the requested service in a timely manner, or to give their patients information about how to find such a provider.

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

The amendments in the Bill will build on the ACT Government’s ongoing work to ensure access to timely and safe abortions in the ACT.

This includes 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 through participating general practices in 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,” said Minister Stephen-Smith.

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

“I particularly want to thank Women’s Health Matters for its work on this initiative and for developing new online information for people seeking an abortion. This website will also be an important resource for health professionals who may need to refer their patients to another service if they are unwilling or unable to provide abortion care.”

/Public Release. View in full here.