The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is calling on Queensland MPs to reject a proposed law allowing nurses and midwives to prescribe abortion pills. State Health Minister Shannon Fentiman has tabled a bill to make Queensland the first jurisdiction to allow the practice in a bid to improve abortion access for women in regional parts of the state.
In July, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved an application from the nonprofit pharmaceutical company MS Health to relax restrictions on who can prescribe the pill MS-2 Step which can be taken up to nine weeks from conception. It is up to each state and territory to determine which health practitioners will have prescribing powers.
Prior to the TGA ruling, only doctors who had conducted extra training could prescribe the abortion pill and only about 10% of GPs were registered to do so. While pro-choice groups welcome the move, obstetricians are alarmed over expanding access to medical terminations, warning that women could be at risk of complications, or even death.
National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Dr. Gino Pecoraro said one in five women needed surgery after a medical termination. The Australian quotes him as saying: “There’s a general principle in medicine that you shouldn’t be prescribing a treatment unless you can deal with complications from it. Safety shouldn’t be offered up on the altar of convenience.”
Dr. Pecoraro suggested that instead of lifting regulation on who could prescribe MS-2 Step, governments should work harder to attract “highly trained people” to work in the regions or provide subsidies for women to travel closer to a hospital for a medical termination. “It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly better than having a complication in a very regional or remote area without access to appropriate safeguards,” he said.
Minister Fentiman rejected obstetricians’ concerns. “The TGA has made a decision that nurse practitioners and endorsed midwives, once they have the training and qualifications, can safely provide this medication. This is about making sure no matter where you live in our very big state, you get access to what is a lawful health procedure.”
ACL State Director Rob Norman called it “irresponsible legislation as Queensland’s cavalier approach treats abortion as if it were contraception.” He asserted the killing of an unborn child and the associated risks to women’s health should never become routine.