The Australian Senate’s Community Affairs Committee released a report Friday calling for the Australian Government to improve access to reproductive healthcare following the Senate’s referral of an inquiry into the nation’s contraception and abortion services to the committee on September 28, 2022.
The accessibility issues identified arise due to Australia’s national drug scheduling system, administered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which regulates the distribution of medicines in Australia, including contraceptives. Accordingly, these medicines can only be obtained via prescription, thus limiting their accessibility.
The committee further identified the “high financial costs” associated with contraceptive medicine and abortion services, as well as the “limited support for nurses and midwives; and lack of male contraceptive options.”
The committee made a total of 36 recommendations, some of which include improving access to male contraceptives, making contraceptives more affordable and for the Australian Government to consider continuing funding for the Australian Contraception and Abortion Primary Care Practitioner Support Network (AusCAPPS) to provide ongoing support and professional development for practitioners.
The report further highlighted Australia’s lack of abortion service providers, which often requires women to be placed on extensive waiting lists or to travel long distances, generating delay and distress.
President of the Royal Australia College of General Practitioners Nicole Higgins commented on the accessibility of abortion services: “As a Mackay GP, I know my patients who require a surigcal abortion must travel over 100 kilometres for care and that is not acceptable. We need action and we need it now.”
The inquiry results have already received attention from Australian politicians, with Australian Greens Senator Larissa Waters stating “this inquiry has revealed the scale of work needed to achieve universal access to abortion, contraception, sexual healthcare, and maternity services in Australia.” Waters further noted “People shouldn’t have to spend 100s of dollars and travel 100s of [kilometers] to get an abortion. The recommendation to lift restrictions on medical abortion & ensure public hospitals provide surgical abortions or a local affordable referral will go a long way to improving access.”