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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 19 September 2018) . . Page.. 3837 ..


abortions, and no-one is under any duty to carry out or assist in carrying out an abortion.

The only approved medical facility in the ACT is the Marie Stopes clinic. Marie Stopes has been the ACT’s sole provider of medical and surgical abortions since July 2004. However, where an abortion is needed due to medical issues, the procedure can also be undertaken at the Canberra Hospital. Currently, some Canberra women choose to access a medical abortion through a telehealth model. While currently not legal in the ACT, women can access this service in New South Wales through the Tabbot Foundation.

While our current legislation was appropriate for the time it was enacted, changing medical practices mean that it is in need of modernising, principally because of the advent and allowance of medical abortions as an option for women seeking an abortion. Ms Le Couteur’s bill in large part addresses this need by creating separate definitions for medical and surgical abortions and removing the requirement for a medical abortion to be carried out in an approved medical facility, thereby allowing women to access a medical abortion through their general practitioner or telehealth provider.

Let me be absolutely clear: while the government will move some amendments to the bill in its proposed format, it does not have any concerns with its intent. The government’s proposed amendments are designed to improve the bill’s purpose by improving the accessibility of abortions in the ACT.

Broadly speaking, these amendments are as follows: the first area is that of language. The bill seeks to change the terminology from “abortion” to “termination”, with the view that this is more appropriate clinical language. While I understand the intent behind this proposal, advice obtained from ACT Health as well as a range of local stakeholders is that “termination of pregnancy” has a broader meaning than the term “abortion” and includes miscarriages and births. The word used in clinical settings is “abortion”. Therefore, the government’s amendments retain the current clinically appropriate terminology.

The bill also uses the word “drug” when describing MS-2 Step. The Therapeutic Goods Administration uses the term “prescription medicine”, and the pharmaceutical benefits scheme uses “medicine”. For the sake of clarity and consistency, the government’s amendments also insert the term “abortifacient”, meaning “a medicine, drug or other substance that causes a pregnancy to end”. Using this word provides greater safeguards for women.

The second area relates to nurse practitioners. While the current act permits only doctors to prescribe MS-2 Step, Ms Le Couteur’s bill also seeks to permit nurse practitioners to prescribe it. MS-2 Step is, however, highly regulated and, as such, the TGA has only authorised doctors to prescribe this medication. While I acknowledge including nurse practitioners as prescribers is a sensible and reasonable step to consider, as nurse practitioners are not listed by the commonwealth’s PBS legislation to prescribe MS-2 Step, nurse practitioners would still be unable to prescribe the


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