Peak Obstetricians’ Body Warns Women at Risk After Abortion Pill Access Expanded

Anthony Albanese’s expansion of abortion pill access puts women at risk of complications, or even death, an obstetrician body says, raising alarm over the government not properly considering the unintended consequences of the policy. National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynecologists president Gino Pecoraro said allowing nurses to prescribe the abortion pill would see “lesser trained practitioners” handing out the medication. “You can’t just start something like this without having all the infrastructure in place to deal with any complications and it may simply be that it’s just not safe to do this everywhere,” he said.  “What we need are health solutions and what’s been announced is a political solution.” The Therapeutic Goods Administration earlier approved an application from the not-for-profit pharmaceutical company MS Health to amend restrictions on the medical abortion pill MS-2 Step, which can be taken up to nine weeks from conception.

As part of the change, nurse practitioners will be allowed to prescribe the pill and pharmacists will no longer need a “special certification” to dispense it. Dr Pecoraro said he had been called in to help save the life of a 40-year-old woman earlier this year who was flown in from regional NSW after being prescribed the abortion pill and experiencing significant side effects and bleeding. “She nearly died,” he said. “On the surface this looks like a wonderful thing to increase access to regional and remote disadvantaged women, but the first rule has to be do no harm, and I’m not convinced we’re not going to do harm.” Of all medical abortions, he estimated about 5% resulted in complications. “Someone could die because of this,” he said.

The Albanese government has been typically cautious in its response to calls for expanded abortion access, after an ambitious policy taken to the 2019 election that tied public hospital funding to the provision of terminations was weaponised by the Coalition and religious groups. The Australian Medical Association vice-president Danielle McMullen also stressed the need for appropriate training and support to be offered to health practitioners empowered to hand out the medication. A spokesman for the health department said it was the responsibility of each state and territory to “determine the specific qualifications for prescribing”, but he said the decision to expand prescribing power of MS-2 Step had been “supported by expert advice from the Advisory Committee on Medicine”.

Catholic and Anglican leaders also raised alarm over the lifting of regulations for practitioners to prescribe MS-2 Step. Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said the change expanded the reach of medical abortion “without any expansion of pregnancy support for women”. “We can do better than to make it easier to access abortion without making it easier to access genuine medical care and support to go ahead with a pregnancy.” he said. Anglican Archdeacon for Women’s Ministry Kara Hartley and Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Kanishka Raffel said the policy would make it “more dangerous” for women in regional areas with less access to support services after complications. “The impact of allowing self-administration of medication which terminates the life of an unborn child up to nine weeks of gestation is profound,” Archbishop Raffel said. “The rhetoric around this issue has been focused on access rather than the impacts of abortion.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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