Written by Kathy Clubb
5th August 2023
As of August 1st, chemical abortions will potentially be easier to access across Australia following the federal government’s decision to deregulate the process for prescribing the abortion pill. GPs are no longer required to complete the training and are no longer required to re-register every three years. Additionally, nurse practitioners – subject to state laws – are now able to dispense the abortion pill and are covered by a Medicare rebate. The changes also affect pharmacists, as the new policy allows an increased number to stock the abortion pill. However, abortion proponents appear unable to understand the real reasons why many women around the country have trouble accessing terminations.
The regulatory changes surrounding the abortion pill were made in response to a Senate inquiry report released last May. The report stated that Australian women, particularly those in rural areas, need greater access to abortion services and that loosening restrictions around chemical abortion was one way to achieve that.
Although usually referred to as the abortion “pill”, a chemical abortion comprises a regimen of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, which are taken over several days, usually in the first nine weeks of pregnancy. As well as being lethal for babies, there is a great deal of evidence to show that the abortion pill is dangerous for women, and many jurisdictions worldwide have chosen to maintain restrictions on its availability. Despite this, Ged Kearney, the Assistant Minister for Health, claims that the abortion pill is completely safe and that the new guidelines will bring Australia into line with the rest of the world.
In Australia, the abortion pill is sometimes known as RU-486 and is marketed under the name “MS 2-Step”. The sole supplier here is abortion-behemoth MSI, the organisation formerly known as Marie Stopes International, which changed its name after the eugenics mentality of its founder Marie Stopes became widely known. Until now, MSI has been the sole provider or training for health professionals wanting to dispense the abortion pill and still controls the registration process.
Data for the Senate inquiry originated from researchers at Melbourne’s Monash University SPHERE programme. According to its website, SPHERE, also known as the SPHERE Centre of Research Excellence “seeks to improve awareness, availability and access to sexual and reproductive health services for all Australian women.”
SPHERE has been pushing nurse-led medical abortion for years, as well as increased provision of long-acting reversible contraception devices, or LARCs. According to data from SPHERE, only 10% of Australian GPs prescribe the abortion pill, and only 30% of pharmacists can dispense it, meaning that half of Australian women can’t obtain an abortion locally. This data has been spun by pro-abortion spokesmen and the media to conclude that the former regulations surrounding the abortion pill were preventing doctors and chemists from providing medical abortions. Yet the truth is that most GPs and pharmacists have been making a deliberate decision not not to prescribe or dispense MS 2-Step.
SPHERE’S own studies debunk the idea that it is legislation which throws up obstacles to the provision of abortion services. Its recent international meta-study of over 6000 medical professionals showed that “Fear of criminal prosecution and conservative attitudes towards abortion determined whether or not health professionals provided the service and or referrals.” The study also found that most “primary care providers have poor knowledge of medical abortion service provision” but somehow concluded that “changes in legislation” would give medical professionals the confidence to provide abortions and to “become exemplars of abortion advocacy in their respective countries.”
SPHERE spokesperson, Professor Danielle Mazza AM, believes that the need for training and registration created ‘suspicion’ about medical abortions in the eyes of GPs. Mazza suggests that doctors would think, “maybe there’s something I don’t know about medical abortion” and decide not to provide them. She said that “ … in the past, GPs had concerns about the process — many were not sure about the registration process or why it was in place.” Such comments are an example of the kind of sophistry often engaged in by pro-abortion ideologues: it is beyond belief that medical professionals, who are some of the most intelligent people around, are unable to acquaint themselves with a simple registration process, or that the need for training put them off prescribing a drug which is apparently in high demand.
Another, smaller study of 32 doctors from New South Wales gives more detail about the reluctance of GPs to prescribe the abortion pill. While some cited moral objections, others felt that the medical abortion procedure itself was too difficult to navigate, especially when there were medical complications. Others were worried about stigma. Interestingly, according to MSI, stigma is the only reason why doctors are not champing at the bit to add abortion to their list of services.
The studies are evidence that it is not only pro-life doctors who are loath to prescribe the abortion pill, and this is backed up by commentary surrounding the TGA’s new policies. President of the National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Associate Professor Gino Pecoraro, has written on several online platforms to express his concerns that safety issues surrounding the deregulation of MS-2 Step are not being addressed.
In an article from the NewsGP website written after deregulation, Professor Pecoraro mentioned the need for 1–4% of medical terminations to be followed up with a surgical abortion due to being incomplete, and also mentioned infection and excess bleeding as complications requiring medical assistance from a doctor. Below this article are comments from doctors who agree with him, citing their own experience with patients requiring assistance after medical abortions. One writes of the need for follow up care to be given after all abortions, asking, “for what other procedures would surgeons perform and not provide follow up treatment?”
In his article for The Australian, Dr Pecoraro wrote of a patient who nearly died from complications following the abortion pill. The 40-year-old woman was flown in from country NSW, suffering from a haemorrhage. He said,“It’s a dictum in medicine that you shouldn’t be prescribing something if you can’t deal with the complications of it. I’m just concerned that on the surface this looks like a wonderful thing to increase access to regional and remote disadvantaged women … but the first rule has to be do no harm, and I’m not convinced we’re not going to do harm.”
Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Antenatal and Postnatal Care, Dr Wendy Burton, is also concerned, writing that pharmacists who dispense the abortion pill may not take the time to explain the procedure properly or assess the patients, and may also overlook a patient’s need for pain-relief.
It is not only high-profile medical professionals who are worried about the unintended consequences of deregulation. Comments under the Australian article give further insights into the feminists’ “wonder-drug”:
“I have heard from nurses in ER that women are presenting at Emergency Departments when things go wrong. This is hardly a comprehensive health strategy but more an expedient one.”
From a pro-abortion male: “The hospital I work in already sees 2-3 women per week who require emergency surgery after they’ve had an abortion go wrong.”
From a woman: “I took a similar drug after a blighted ovum and missed miscarriage at 6w. I had a very typical and uncomplicated experience of taking the drug, which is to say absolute agony requiring regular opioid pain relief, large blood-loss accompanied by dizziness and nothing but bed rest for at least three days. At the time I would have preferred to go through the process in hospital such was the physical toll. The thought of anyone, least of all women in remote communities, taking this without adequate medical supervision is chilling. [emphasis added]
Note that the objections to deregulation given here are from those who are in favour of abortion generally. These are not pro-life objections – we know deregulation means more tiny lives will be flushed down the toilet – but come from highly-trained medical professionals and as such should be taken seriously by the Health Department. Government policy makers should also be listening to pro-abortion commentators who write and speak of the emotional toll taken by abortion. Particularly pertinent is the experience of those women who have used medication abortion to labour and dispose of their dead children at home.
For example, a newly-released book written by a Melbourne author about her abortion experience does not sugar-coat the procedure, although her criticism is couched in politically-correct language. Writer Madison Griffiths said in an interview that she does not regret the abortion but laments the fact that although she was ‘privileged’ and lacking any sort of victimhood status such as having indigenous blood or living in a rural area, she “still felt terrible, like the sort of thing that I will carry for a long time. [It felt] terrible and incredibly freeing, and incredibly powerful…”
Griffiths went on to say that, “I don’t want people to assume that once you make that choice, you’re skipping around the field, and everything’s great and you’re a free woman or you’re a free person.”
The federal health department, through the Therapeutic Goods Administration, hopes that MS 2-Step will soon lose its stigma and be treated like any other drug or medicine. Abortion advocates might have to go back to the drawing board, however, if they want to convince the majority of Australia’s doctors and pharmacists to start prescribing their “safe and effective” home abortion model. Medical professionals obviously know that women are not only not “skipping around the field” after an abortion but that abortion providers don’t always feel so great either. As “pro-choice” as they might be in theory, actually terminating another person’s life deliberately and taking full responsibility for the aftermath is obviously a step that few are willing to take.