Improving abortion access in the Territory

The ACT Greens will this week table legislation to improve access to medical abortions in the ACT.

If passed, the Health (Improving Abortion Access) Amendment Bill 2018 will make medical abortion available to women across the ACT, improving access for Canberran women to exercise their reproductive rights.

Medical abortion provides a safe, accessible and private means of terminating an early pregnancy with medication.  Medical abortions are prescribed in other states and territories by licenced medical professionals, including GPs and nurses. Women can have a professional consultation by phone without a need to visit a clinic. Medical abortions involve the use of mifepristone and misoprostol, commonly known as RU486.  These drugs, prescribed by a by licenced medical professional, can be taken at home as with other prescription drugs.

This legislation seeks to ensure that termination procedures can be carried out by all doctors and nurse practitioners, as is the case in other jurisdictions. Under current ACT legislation, abortions must be performed in an “approved facility”—currently limited to Marie Stopes and the Canberra Hospital.  

In NSW, QLD, WA and Tasmania, women can access medical abortion services to terminate a pregnancy.

The Bill also:

  • Ensures that a doctor or nurse must not refuse to carry out, or to assist in carrying out, an abortion in an emergency where a woman’s health is in danger;
  • Ensures that a doctor or nurse must inform patients if they are exercising their right to conscientiously object;
  • Clarifies the Health Act to ensure those who undertake a medical abortion are not inadvertently criminalised;
  • Provides for gender neutral language, recognising that persons who do not identify as women may be capable of being pregnant, and seeking an abortion.

The Greens believe that all women deserve the right to choose and to control their own reproductive rights. No matter where a women lives, she deserves the right to control her own life, including in the ACT.

Comments attributable to Greens spokesperson for Women Caroline Le Couteur:

“It’s not acceptable that Canberra women are forced to travel interstate to access medical abortions. No matter where a person lives, they should be able to exercise their reproductive health rights.

“We welcome contributions from both the ALP and the Liberal Party on this important public health issue, and hope that they too will back women’s rights in the Territory in voting for this Bill.”