Women in the Northern Territory now have access to an over-the-phone service which is providing a safe way to terminate pregnancies.
Following the Termination of Pregnancy Law Reform Act coming into effect on July 1 this year, Northern Territory women no longer need to fly interstate for non-surgical abortions.
The Tabbot Foundation offers medical abortions as a non-surgical alternative to those who are at less than nine weeks gestation, and who live within two hours driving time of a medical facility.
Dr Paul Hyland of the foundation said, compared to surgical termination, medical termination is a safer option for women.
The hardest thing for the foundation has been for us to make women aware that it is an option available to them in remote areas."
“Nationwide no woman under our care during the past six months has needed surgical intervention for heavy bleeding within 14 days of the abortion, and our overall surgical intervention rate is less than 3 per cent,” Dr Hyland said.
The Tabbot Foundation provides telephone consultation with a specialist medical practitioner.
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If medical termination is considered suitable, they will provide all medications necessary, along with a registered nurse to support a woman through the process, as well as a 24-hour on-call doctor. The foundation provides follow up until it can confirm the pregnancy has been terminated.
The foundation has only a brief window of opportunity - between five weeks - when the pregnancy can be identified by ultrasound, and eight weeks, when medications are mailed.
The service is available for women over the age of 16. In the Northern Territory, a custodial parent or guardian must give consent if the woman is under 16 years.
Although surgical abortion has been available throughout Australia for many decades, the introduction of medical abortion has been slow.
Mifepristone was banned by the then Health Minister Tony Abbott, until 2006 when parliament removed his veto on its importation.
In 2012 mifepristone finally became readily available in Australia and Tanya Plibersek, as Health Minister under a Labor Government, put the drug on the PBS.
The Termination of Pregnancy Law Reform Act brought the Northern Territory into line with Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and the ACT.
While now available for a few months, the foundation has found that women are still unaware of their termination options.
“The hardest thing for the foundation has been for us to make women aware that it is an option available to them in remote areas within two hours driving time of a medical facility,” Dr Hyland said.
“Not only that, but that it is a safe procedure that women can do in the comfort and privacy of their own home.”
The service is available to women living in all regional areas of the NT.
Around the world medical abortion has slowly replaced surgical abortion as a method of termination. In Sweden and Finland it counts for about 90 per cent.
Australian states have shown the same result. In Tasmania the decline in the in the surgical rate led to the closure of a Launceston clinic.