The drug is widely used for early medical abortion in many countries – yet in Australia most abortions are still performed surgically.
‘Very few women in Australia have access to early medical abortions,’ says La Trobe Law researcher, Associate Professor Kerry Petersen.
This is despite the fact that the process has been endorsed by both the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the United Kingdom.
In a paper published this week in the ‘Medical Journal of Australia’, Dr Petersen calls for national abortion law reform to protect medical practitioners from criminal liability and promote the health interests of Australian women.
Such reform, she says, ‘would also discourage the illegal importation of abortifacients that are being used without quality controls or medical supervision – reminiscent of the “backyard” abortions of yesteryear.’
Dr Petersen says the most common, most effective and safest medication for early medical abortions (EMAs) is the combination of misoprostol and mifepristone (formerly RU486), which was developed and marketed in the 1980s.
She says during the late 1980s political interference by the Federal government with the risk management role of Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration led to a de-facto ban on the use of mifepristone for EMAs, with Australian women denied the choice of a safe alternative to surgical abortion.
In her article titled ‘Early medical abortion: legal and medical developments in Australia’ she argues Victoria’s Abortion Law Reform Act of 2008 would be a good legislative model for nation-wide decriminalisation.
Dr Petersen says current approval processes for the drug under the Authorised Prescribers scheme requires medical practitioners to comply with state or territory legislation.
‘Abortion laws in Australia vary between jurisdictions, and in some states the law is unclear and confusing. Clearly, the regulatory framework governing mifepristone prescription rights would be less complex if states and territories throughout Australia decriminalised abortion laws,’ she says.
• The full article is available on: http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/193_01_050710/pet11164_fm.html
Issued by: Ernest Raetz
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