Nurse-led models would increase access to abortion care

Sigrid Firth Abortion, Advocacy, Equity and access, Media

MEDIA STATEMENT

Wednesday 4 November 2020

Advocates and legal experts have released a paper that necessitates the implementation of nurse-led models of abortion care in Australia.

A shortage of trained providers presents a significant barrier to accessing abortion care services throughout Australia. While access to abortion care in rural, regional, and remote settings poses a considerable challenge.

Long-term health inequity has been reinforced during the pandemic due to travel restrictions, panic buying, and health system strain.i Implementing nurse-led models of medical abortion care has the potential to increase access and reduce associated costs.

Nurses, particularly Nurse Practitioners, are skilled at providing vital services. Abortion care should be no exception. Evidence from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that nurse and midwife-led abortion care models are clinically safe, effective, and acceptable.

The University of Queensland’s Pro Bono Centre and Marie Stopes Australia developed the paper in consultation with the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) and SPHERE NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health to inform evolving models of sexual and reproductive healthcare.

This paper scans the relevant legislation and investigates potential pilot sites for nurse-led medical abortion care. It proposes Victoria or the Australian Capital Territory as the most appropriate jurisdictions and considers the possibility of Queensland or the Northern Territory.

Equitable access to abortion services is a key priority of the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020- 2030. We look forward to collaborating with governments, the health sector, and key community stakeholders, to explore how nurse-led abortion care can be provided across our country to enable sexual and reproductive healthcare access for all Australians.

Download links

Nurse-led MToP in Australia – legislative scan (DOCX, 928 KB)

Nurse-led MToP in Australia – legislative scan (PDF, 584 KB)

Quotes from Jamal Hakim, Managing Director, Marie Stopes Australia

“Nurses can and should play a greater, more autonomous role in abortion care provision, particularly early medical abortion.”

“Nurse and midwife led abortion care models are clinically safe, effective and acceptable.”

“The legislative considerations in this paper are a small part of a larger reforms required to enable nurse-led care in Australia.”

“We look forward to working with partners from across the sexual and reproductive health sector, governments and health reform advocates, to explore how nurse-led abortion care can be provided across our country.”

Quotes from Professor Heather Douglas, Law School, the University of Queensland

“As an aspect of reproductive health care, abortion care should be equally available to all. For some, particularly those living in regional and remote areas, access to abortion care is limited. Expanding nurse-led abortion care is one way to help address this issue.”

“This Legislative Scan shows that models that facilitate nurse-led abortion care already exist in Australia and could potentially be introduced across the country.”

Quotes from Alexis Apostolellis, CEO, the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM)

“Early medical abortion care is not readily available in many places, and can be prohibitively expensive. Allowing nurses to play a greater role in early medical abortion care will increase access to these vital services for everyone.”

“Nurse-led care is increasingly common across all areas of health and enhances patient outcomes. Nurses are the backbone of Australia’s health workforce and it makes sense for nurse-led care to be adopted as a safe, sound, equitable approach to early medical abortion care.”

“Access to early medical abortion care is fundamental to equitable reproductive health.”

Quotes from Professor Danielle Mazza, Head, Department of General Practice and Director SPHERE

“The number and distribution of early medical abortion providers can be increased by task-shifting abortion provision from doctors to appropriately trained nurses and midwives”.

“Provision of early medical abortion by nurses is as effective and safe as physician provision and is supported by the World Health Organization”.

“Increasing provision of nurse-led models of early medical abortion has the potential to not only increase access to abortion for women in regional and remote areas due to greater reach of services, but also for disadvantaged and vulnerable women in other settings.”

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Marie Stopes Australia is a national not for profit provider of sexual and reproductive health services including permanent and long-acting reversible contraception and abortion care. For more information on our clinic network visit mariestopes.org.au

Media contact Kate Davis, Head of Communications, Marie Stopes Australia, 0428 396 391

i Marie Stopes Australia (2020), Situational Report: Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in Australia at https://resources.mariestopes.org.au/SRHRinAustralia.pdf