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Empowering pharmacies to prescribe abortion pill ‘worth exploring’: Emily’s List

An influential group of female Labor members is calling on the government to consider further broadening access to the abortion pill and allowing pharmacists to prescribe it without a script from a doctor or nurse.

Written by Sarah Ison, The Australian. Read The Full Article Here

Emily’s List, which successfully lobbied for Labor to adopt gender quotas, is pushing to make abortion access easier and ensure that women, particularly in regional areas, are provided timely terminations.

The Albanese government this week empowered nurses to prescribe the pill but did not give such power to pharmacists, instead only lifting regulations that restrict the stocking and dispensing of the medication.

Emily’s List chief executive Pamela Anderson said the announcement was “a step in the right direction”, and giving pharmacists the ability to not only dispense but also prescribe the medication should be considered.

“I think that that’s something worth exploring,” she said. “This treatment is time-critical. It’s so important to be early in this particular treatment. As soon as you start putting days and weeks into it, you’re starting to push into surgical treatment, which comes with its own risks.”

Ms Anderson said Emily’s List – which is not aligned with the left or right of the party – welcomed the government’s commitment to “remove the hurdles” for women to get access to the pill and allowing nurses to prescribe it was “a great progressive step”.

“What we’re wanting to do is make it more accessible for ­people in remote and regional areas … and in a lot of country towns, nurse practitioners are (the residents’) main healthcare provider,” she said.

The termination pill is a two-part medication added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in 2013 that can be taken within nine weeks of a pregnancy.

The Australian in June revealed motions Emily’s List was planning to present at Labor’s nat­ional conference in August, which included allowing more health practitioners to prescribe the pill.

When asked whether it would put forward a new motion to open a discussion on whether pharmacists should be given such prescribing powers, Ms Anderson would not rule it out but said she would first speak to the government directly.

“We will have a chat with the minister first and see what’s going on. I’ll definitely sit down and chat with our committee and then we’ll make some decisions from there,” she said.

“We’re not rushing into withdrawing … our motions. We’re going to sit down and wait for the detail and then make a decision.”

Other motions from Emily’s List include urging the government to pay for “travel costs for anyone living regionally and remotely when they are unable to access the service locally”.

Leading Christian groups have been ­calling on Labor MPs to back more protections for religious organisations in the party’s policy ­platform at Aug­ust’s ALP ­national conference and have raised alarm at the debate over abortion becoming “unbalanced” to protect women pressured into terminations but not those who wanted to continue with the pregnancy.

Labor in 2019 suggested trying to tie public hospital funding to the provision of terminations but the internal review of its campaign, published after the election loss, found announcing such policies 10 weeks out from the vote “enabled conservative groups to target Christian voters in marginal electorates”.

“The party would be wise to reconnect with people of faith on social justice issues and emphasise its historic links with mainstream churches,” it found.

Health Minister Mark Butler earlier this month ruled out bringing back such a policy.

Ms Anderson said religious organisations should “stay out of healthcare”, accusing faith groups of being interested only in the “control” of women.

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