Restrictions on abortion medication lifted for health practitioners

  • Hon Dr Ayesha Verrall

Abortion services can now be provided in primary care, meaning people can access this care from someone like their trusted GP and in a familiar setting, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced today.

“By lifting some restrictions on the funded medications used for early medical abortions, more health practitioners can prescribe them at low cost. This improves New Zealanders’ access to safe, quality abortion services,” Ayesha Verrall said.

“While overall the number of abortions has been falling in recent years, it’s important to ensure people who need this health service can go to a medical professional they know and trust.”

Previously, funded medication was only available to health practitioners working in Family Planning clinics or connected to DHB hospitals. Now, these medications can also be prescribed by other trained health practitioners working in primary care such as GPs, midwives, and Nurse Practitioners – via a Practitioner Supply Order.

Further training will be available later this year, to support this change.

“The New Zealand College of Sexual and Reproductive Health will partner with Te Whāriki Takapou, a Māori-led health organisation, to deliver a new, innovative training package that supports the sector to better meet the needs of rangatahi, Māori, Pacific and disabled people.

“To improve services, we need to do things differently. The NZCSRH will work with these communities to help shape this training. Growing the skills and size of our abortion workforce is a key part of improving services,” Ayesha Verrall said.

The updated clinical guideline for abortion care has also been released.

“A key change in the guideline is that ultrasound does not routinely have to be used for determining gestational age. This cuts down time for some patients seeking abortion care, which is important as we know abortions performed earlier are safer.

“The guideline is underpinned by the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It outlines best practice, based on sound medical evidence.

“Abortion services need to be culturally safe and accessible for everyone. Today’s announcements are part of wider reform of abortion services in New Zealand, following the removal of abortion from the Crimes Act in 2020.

“Transforming abortion services will take time, but progress has been made. We will continue to support our workforce, provide more options for abortion care, and make sure services are available to those who need them,” Ayesha Verrall said.

/Public Release. View in full here.