Nursing lecturer aims to reshape abortion care

06 December 2021

CQUniversity nursing lecturer Lydia Mainey has shared how nurses and midwives can increase abortion access' equity and agency as a keynote speaker at the recent Reshaping Abortion Care in Australia forum.

Hosted by Marie Stopes Australia and MS Health' the webinar brought together stakeholders from around Australia to continue the national conversation on de-regulating abortion to increase access.

As a nurse' nurse educator and researcher of nursing and midwifery involvement in abortion care' Ms Mainey is a strong supporter of access to family planning' sexual and reproductive health services and education.

"Unfortunately' in Australia' accessing abortion care is still a matter of privilege and luck'" Ms Mainey said.

"People victimised by gender-based violence' facing financial insecurity' living with a disability' living in rural and remote locations' or from a cultural or gender minority group continue to find it difficult to access abortion.

"I saw this firsthand while employed as a nurse unit manager at the Rockhampton Marie Stopes Australia (MSA) clinic. In 2016 I left to pursue a career in academia' but I have always remained in touch with MSA.

"They have assisted me in recruiting some participants for my PhD and being part of the forum was my opportunity to 'give back' by sharing my research findings and recommendations."

The PhD candidate said her research into the experiences of nurses and midwives who provide abortion care to people affected by gender-based violence was a key discussion topic- with one in four Australian women/people undergoing an abortion in their lifetime' and higher rates for those in domestic violence situations.

"My research shows that stealthy groups of nurses' midwives' medical professionals and sometimes even community members are bending the law' policy and procedures to assist with abortion access.

"Nurses and midwives currently fill gaps in abortion access and equity' particularly in regional' rural and remote areas'" Ms Mainey said.

"For example' in a rural and remote town with a strong anti-choice medical workforce' some abortion referrals – which are supposed to be written by doctors - are done by nurses and admin staff.

"I found in a remote Indigenous community that some patient transfer forms are embellished by midwives so patients can access elective abortions. In a regional public hospital' a midwife and Indigenous liaisons directly disobey the anti-choice hospital executive and connect pregnant people with abortion clinics."

Throughout the forum' Ms Mainey advocated for legitimising nurse and midwifery leadership models to increase opportunities for clinical education' compliance' safety and quality of care for all.

"Reliance on these unofficial and underground pathways places huge legal' professional and social burdens on individuals who firmly believe they are on the right side of history.

"The Australian Government' medical' nursing and midwifery colleges and industry bodies must consider how to legitimise nurse and midwife leadership in the provision of abortion care' in particular as prescribers of medical abortion."