Victoria has some of the strongest and most progressive abortion laws in Australia. However, there are still significant access barriers for abortion seekers in Victoria such as stigma, cost, location of services, lack of professional training and funding.
It is essential that abortion access is timely, affordable, accessible regardless of location. It is important that healthcare is provided by informed, trained health professionals, without stigma or judgment.
Education and ongoing support for healthcare professionals is a key step in the improvement of abortion access in Victoria.
Identifying key barriers to abortion access in Melbourne’s north west
This year, abortion experts in Victoria, including doctors, sexual and reproductive health experts, health promotion workers and pregnancy counsellors set up a regional working group for Melbourne’s north west. They came together to understand the barriers for people seeking an abortion and key priorities for improving access.
From identifying key barriers to abortion access, the regional working group developed an early medical abortion education session for GPs, practice managers, nurses and pharmacists.
What is early medical abortion?
There are two main methods available in Australia to induce an abortion, also known as a termination of pregnancy. These types are surgical and medical.
A medical professional may recommend one over the other, due to factors including gestation (the period of time since conception), a person’s previous medical history, and their health care preferences.
Medication abortion (also called early medical abortion or EMA and Medical Terminations of Pregnancy or MTOP) is the preferred method of induced abortion of nearly 50% of people worldwide who experience unwanted pregnancy.
The procedure is safe, effective and legal. However, despite the legal status of abortion in Victoria there remains limited access to early medical abortion.
It is a procedure that uses medicine to end a pregnancy. A medical abortion doesn't require surgery or anaesthesia and is a safe and effective method of terminating a pregnancy up to 9 weeks (63 days) gestation.
Medical abortion is a two-stage process. The first stage involves taking a tablet which blocks the hormone necessary for the pregnancy to continue. This is followed 24-48 hours later by a second medication which causes the contents of the uterus to be expelled. It can be started in a medical office or at home with follow-up visits to a health care provider.
Early medial abortion education sessions: Collaboration of abortion experts to strengthen access in the north west of Melbourne
In June, GenWest and Women’s Health In the North (WHIN), the Royal Women’s Hospital, and the North Western Melbourne PHN hosted an online education session for GPs, practice managers, nurses and pharmacists.
Sexual and reproductive health coordinators from GenWest and WHIN facilitated the session, and four presenters shared their expert knowledge:
- Dr Paddy Moore, who is Clinical Lead at Abortion and Contraception Service and Clinical Champion Project - The Royal Women's Hospital Melbourne
- Trish Hayes from Melbourne Pregnancy Counsellors
- Dr Lynda-Rose Chapeyama from Clinic 66
- Carolyn Mogharbel from 1800 My Options
The session covered an overview of training requirements for providing early medical abortion, an update on early medical abortion procedures and practice experiences and referral pathways for GPs and nurses who currently provide or are motivated to provide early medical abortion.
There was a fantastic turn out for this session, with over 40 GPs, practice managers, nurses and pharmacists attending and a few even tuned in from interstate.
How I can find out more?
There will be a second MTOP education session in the coming months which will be a follow up session and address complex cases and debunk myths about medication abortion.
All GPs, practice managers, nurses and pharmacists are welcome to attend and do not need to have attended the first session. Keep an eye on our Instagram and our website to hear about when this session will be held.
If you are a medical professional and interested in learning more about increasing access to medical abortion, join the AusCAPPS (The Australian Contraception and Abortion Primary Care Practitioner Support Network) Community Of Practice.
AusCAPPS Network will connect you with GPs, pharmacists and nurses around Australia who also provide medical abortion services, provide access to training and education opportunities and give you access to resources, guidelines, referral forms and patient handouts.