GPs Are Calling For All Contraceptives To Be Subsidised And More Accessible 

In a push to increase access to abortion and full range of contraceptive options, GPs across Australia are calling for the government to subsidise contraceptives and increase Medicare rebates for IUD insertion.

The world watched with horror as the United States voted to overturn the significant Roe v Wade, ultimately criminalising abortion in a number of states with drastic and immediate consequences for those who would now be forced to give birth. While the consequences of such a decision have been widespread across the States, they’ve also led many to look at their own abortion rights at home and consider the access made available to them, both in terms of abortion facilities and contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. 

It’s largely why GPs across Australia are demanding the government do more to end the abortion “postcode lottery,” claiming there needs to be greater access not only to abortion services, but also contraceptive options. As a result, GPs are demanding all contraceptives be government subsidised, that Medicare rebates for IUD insertion are increased, and that larger quantities of contraception pills are dispensed at once to make abortion and contraception more accessible. 

For many practitioners, it’s become clear that there are significant barriers to reproductive care when it comes to those living in rural and remote communities. Most notably, cost is a major barrier, preventing many from accessing abortion services. President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), Dr Nicole Higgins, is asking the government to improve affordability. “In Mackay, where I am, if a woman presents for an abortion later than nine weeks or has a failed medical termination they have to go to Brisbane which is 1000km away, at a cost of $650 plus flights and accomodation,” said Dr Higgins. 

For GPs working in rural communities, there are also barriers that include hospitals being too far away, difficulty accessing drugs, and the unavailability of a gynaecologist to provide backup. “We also need to do more to improve access to and affordability of the full range of contraceptive options,” said Dr Higgins. “Firstly, allowing greater quantities of contraceptive pills to be dispensed in one go will make a huge difference to those who need it.”

“Many newer forms of contraceptives such as the new progesterone-only pill and vaginal ring are not listed on the PBS, meaning only those who can afford to pay for a private prescription can access them and it’s out of reach for most.”

dr nicole higgins

Another key change the RACGP wants to see made is IUD insertion to be more affordable, with financial support also given to GPs to train in surgical abortion and long-acting reversible contraception procedures. They are also calling for nationally consistent legislation for medical and surgical termination, as Western Australia currently remains the only state which is yet to fully decriminalise abortion performed by qualified practitioners. 

As GP registrar, Dr Sonia Srinivasan, who conducted a Monash University-led study on abortion services and advice granted by GPs in their referral, suggests, there needs to be concrete guidelines applicable to the nation around abortion care and referral pathways. As Srinivasan told The Guardian, “What we want is for access to abortion not to be a postcode lottery that depends on where you live. Wherever a woman needs an abortion in the setting of an unplanned pregnancy, she should know she’ll receive accessible, timely, affordable, and appropriate care and standardised guidelines are essential to that.”

Source @womenshealth.com.au: Read more at : womenalive.org

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