Smiling Argentinian female nurse with eyeglasses, in blue uniform standing near window, looking happily in camera

Nurse-led medical abortion care reforms proposed in Victoria

Sigrid Firth Abortion, Advocacy, Equity and access, Media

Marie Stopes Australia congratulates Fiona Patten MP and her office for the adjournment asking for nurse-led medical abortion care.

Fiona Patten MP tabled the adjournment in Victorian Parliament on Thursday, 29 April. The adjournment was consistent with the recommendations in the Legislative Scan we published last year that called for legislative reform to enable nurse-led medical abortion care and is consistent with the Women’s Health Strategy 2020-2030 which seeks to increase equitable access to abortion care.

A shortage of trained providers is a significant barrier to accessing abortion care services in Australia. When coupled with a growing global shortage of healthcare workers, the need for more innovative models of care that better utilise the skills of both doctors and nurses is a critical consideration for more efficient health systems. It is estimated that there will be a shortage of 30 million health professionals across the world this decade.

In Australia, access to abortion care in rural, regional, and remote settings is a challenge. This is also resoundingly an issue across regional Victoria. Across Australia, less than 10% of GPs are registered to prescribe abortion medication and this drops below 1% in some regional, rural and remote areas. Nurses have the skills and capability to provide vital healthcare services and abortion care is no exception. Our health system in Australia is built on innovations including early adoption of telehealth models, so nurse-led models of care represent another step in our health systems journey towards innovation for access.

Doctors play a leading role in abortion provision and with a shortage in the workforce, it is critical that doctors are able to deliver services in more complex environments. Evidence from across the world shows that nurses can and should play a greater, more autonomous role in abortion care provision, particularly early medical abortion. Evidence from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that nurse and midwife led abortion care models are clinically safe, effective and acceptable to women and pregnant people.

It’s crucial that we expand discussions within the sector about the potential for, and benefits of nurse-led care. Marie Stopes Australia continues to work with partners from across the sexual and reproductive health sector, governments and health reform advocates, to explore evidence on and opportunities for nurse-led abortion care. Marie Stopes Australia looks forward to further opportunities to work with industry representatives including the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia and the Australian College of Nursing to support training development, sector capacity building, and evolving models of care.

Quotes from Jamal Hakim, Managing Director, Marie Stopes Australia

“Abortion access in Australia is a postcode lottery. Nurse-led medical abortion care will enable us to increase abortion access across metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas.”

“A nurse-led model of care is a safe and effective way of improving access and health outcomes in sexual and reproductive health settings in particular. We have seen the success that nurse-led intervention has had in driving down the rates of HIV and Hepatitis C infection. By expanding the providers to nurses, we would dramatically increase the accessibility of sexual and reproductive healthcare.”

“Abortion access is a human right. Victoria has some of the best abortion laws in the country, but this has to be backed up in practice, as access continues to be a struggle in regional Victoria. Across Australia, less than 10% of GPs are registered to prescribe medical abortion medication and this drops below 1% in regional areas.”

“Access across Victoria and Australia continues to be a postcode lottery. This adjournment will empower and enable registered healthcare professionals to deliver this service and go a long way to creating equal access to all Australians when and where they want it.”

“We are very excited to be working alongside forward thinking colleagues, such as Fiona Patten and her office. It is through this collective effort we will be able to increase access to sexual and reproductive healthcare for all.”

For media inquiries please contact call 0428 396 391