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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 19 September 2018) . . Page.. 3843 ..

This bill removes some of the barriers to accessing abortion. It significantly lowers the cost of abortion and goes a substantial way to addressing existing barriers, such as transport and accompaniment, child care and time off work. It returns autonomy to the patient and allows them to access treatment in the situation they are most comfortable with: with their GP, their clinic and their home.

The government’s work is not finished here, Madam Speaker. I continue to believe that an overwhelming majority of Canberrans support moves to make it easier to access the health services that we need. Our community is better off when these services are available. Canberra women can feel assured that I and other committed Labor members will always fight for the right to safe, legal, appropriate and accessible reproductive health, abortion and termination services in the ACT. I commend the amended bill to the Assembly.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (5.47): I was anticipating that Mr Rattenbury was going to speak but he is not; so I will. This bill seeks to do a number of things, and I will comment in two phases on this bill: one in my capacity as the shadow minister for health outlining what the bill does and then I shall make some personal comments about my views about the bill which are my views alone.

This bill seeks to allow a doctor or a nurse to supply or administer a medical abortion drug without the need to be at an approved facility, for instance in a GP’s room. It allows a pharmacist to supply medical abortion drugs on prescription without needing to be in an approved facility and requires a doctor or nurse to carry out or assist with a surgical termination in an emergency, that is, in a life-threatening situation, regardless of any conscientious objection that they may hold against abortion in general.

This bill also establishes a right to conscientious objection. The bill requires that a doctor or nurse who conscientiously objects to abortion and refuses to administer, supply or prescribe termination drugs or to perform or assist at a surgical abortion must tell the patient that they conscientiously object. But in these provisions they do not have to then refer on to somebody who would provide those services.

The bill requires the minister to approve by notifiable instrument the medical facility or part of a medical facility for carrying out surgical terminations where they are satisfied that the facility is suitable.

The bill removes gender-specific language and updates clinical language, primarily omitting the term “abortion” and replacing it with “termination”. Because doctors and nurses can supply, administer and prescribe medical termination drugs other than at an approved facility, the names of facilities do not have to be made public except if they provide surgical abortions.

In the case of self-administering of medical abortion drugs at home the question arises as to how to dispose of the products of the abortion. In creating an ability for a person to seek a medical termination prescription over the phone there is a potential for an incomplete or inaccurate assessment of the pregnant person’s medical or general health and other conditions, and there may be an increased risk of adverse outcomes.

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