Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (17:24): My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Health, and the action I seek is for the minister through the department secretary to amend the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2017 to ensure nurse practitioners, nurses and midwives are able to prescribe medical abortion medication and allow specially trained nurses and midwives to obtain, supply and administer medical abortion medication for the purposes of an early medical termination.
A shortage of trained providers is a significant barrier to accessing abortion care services in Victoria and in particular in rural and regional areas, and I know; I spoke to a sexual health nurse last night who was also lamenting this. By expanding the providers to nurses we would dramatically increase the efficiency of our sexual and reproductive health hubs. This is a recommendation from Women’s Health Victoria. It has the support of the Centre of Research Excellence in Sexual and Reproductive Health for Women in Primary Care, the Australian Women’s Health Network, Marie Stopes and many more. Abortion access is a human right. Victoria has some of the best abortion laws in the country, but this has to be backed up in practice. Across Australia only 5 per cent of GPs are registered to prescribe abortion medication, and this drops to below 1 per cent in regional areas. We know that nurse-led models are not new, and we have seen great success in this when we look at HIV medication and hepatitis C medication. Nurse practitioners have been providing PEP and PrEP—the HIV prevention medication—for quite some time, and that is literally saving lives.
Women’s health organisations are frustrated that there continue to be restrictions on medical abortion medication. They believe—and I am with them—that these restrictions are based on morals, not on medical advice. Abortion drugs are no more harmful than their equivalents for HIV and hep C. Victoria would lead the country if it adopted a nurse-led model. If we implemented a model once again, other states could follow in this much-needed reform. The debate about abortion is over. It is time we ensured access is not based on postcode. It should be up to the medical colleges to decide who is a suitable prescriber, and it is up to us to provide the legal framework to allow that. The action I seek is for the Minister for Health to amend the drugs, poisons and controlled substances regulations to enable nurse practitioners, nurses and midwives to prescribe medical abortion medication and suitably trained nurses to administer this much-needed medication.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Adjournment matter 29/4/21