Safe access to abortion is good public health practice and plays an important role in supporting women’s health, agency and wellbeing. This Connector focuses on the introduction of medical abortion in Australia and provides details of free resources.
Available internationally since the late 1980s, medical (non-surgical) abortions have become available in Victoria since mifepristone was added to the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in 2013. Medical abortion offers an alternative to surgery for women in the early weeks of pregnancy. The most well-known method of medication abortion uses mifepristone in combination with another drug, misoprostol, to end a pregnancy up to nine weeks. Mifepristone is also known as RU486 or the ‘abortion pill’.
Access to medical abortion is associated with numerous potential benefits, including greater choice and access for women as well as lower costs. Registered GPs are able to provide medical abortions potentially improving access for women in regional and remote areas in particular.
Research is currently underway in Victoria to examine the extent to which the provision of medical abortion has really increased access to abortion for women. Ongoing barriers affecting women’s access to abortion may include stigmatisation (of patients and health professionals providing medical abortions), high costs and the multiple appointments required.
Women's Health Victoria (2016) Medical abortion. Women's Health Victoria. Melbourne. - (Clearinghouse Connector; Apr 2016)