Parliamentary inquiry does little for vulnerable right now

30 May 2023

A report from the senate inquiry into Universal Access to Reproductive Healthcare was released last week, providing a number of recommendations for better abortion care in Australia.

CQUniversity abortion care expert Dr Lydia Mainey said that while the report provided many recommendations that should be adopted, it “doesn’t help vulnerable people right now”.

“I absolutely welcome the recommendations from the Senators’ report, but this must translate to real action and resources to ensure that the many people who are facing barriers now receive timely and compassionate abortion care,” Dr Mainey said.

“While it’s a shame that this has been tabled after the budget was released because we need resources in place right now, I am really heartened to see some of the recommendations that relate to abortion care,” she said.

“There’s so much in there that can change the lives of people - especially from regional communities. Now I just want to know how the government is going to action the recommendations.”

Titled Ending the postcode lottery: Addressing barriers to sexual, maternity and reproductive healthcare in Australia, Dr Mainey said the recommendations in the report that would ‘help people living in the regions’ include:

  • Supporting nurses and midwives to work to their full scope
  • Public availability of first and second trimester abortions
  • Medicare arrangement for abortion
  • Continuation of telehealth
  • Nurse, midwife and Aboriginal Health Worker prescribing of abortion pills
  • Undergraduate training of nurses and midwives
  • Provision of abortion services for non-citizens and residents (especially seasonal workers)
  • Increased access to abortion for international students

In reference to supporting nurses and midwives to work to their full scope, Dr Mainey said that at the moment, abortion care and a lot of reproductive care (but not all) was doctor-led.

“That means the decisions are made by doctors, prescribing is done by doctors, and patients have to see a doctor before they have access to medications for abortion,” Dr Mainey said.

“If nurses and midwives had the ability to take the lead on care, that would mean a patient wouldn’t have to go and see a doctor as well, and that’s important because abortion care is really time-sensitive. If you’re waiting to be referred from one health care provider to the next, your options are becoming less and less.

“If adopted, I’m really excited about what this could mean for supporting nurses and midwives to work to their full scope.”