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Queensland Nurses and Midwives Now Authorized to Prescribe Abortion Drugs

According to Premier Steven Miles, there has been a significant increase in funding for termination of pregnancy services this week.

In the Australian state of Queensland, a new law has been passed to allow nurses and midwives to prescribe the abortion drug MS-2 Step.

Traditionally, a doctor’s approval was required to obtain a prescription for this drug in Australia. M2-Step can be used to terminate a pregnancy up to 63 days gestation.

Under the new law, the Queensland government is expanding the healthcare workers who can provide the M2-Step drug to pregnant women.

“The Bill will enable nurse practitioners, endorsed midwives, and qualified registered nurses and midwives to conduct medical terminations in the early stages of pregnancy,” the government stated.

Currently, in Queensland, individuals in the early stages of pregnancy can only obtain a prescription for the medical termination drug, MS-2 Step, from a doctor.

This can lead to inequities in accessing safe early termination of pregnancy services due to medical practitioners’ availability.

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The Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2023 (pdf) also replaced the word “woman” with “person” and the word “herself” with “themself.”

This legislation was supported by the Labor and Greens in the Queensland parliament, while there were opposing views from Liberal National MPs, especially regarding the removal of the word “woman.”

Speaking in parliament on March 7, Minister for Health Shannon Fentiman expressed pride in implementing reforms for Queensland women and girls.

“I am proud that we are enhancing access to medical termination of pregnancy, especially for people who live in rural and regional Queensland,” Ms. Fentiman mentioned (pdf).

Ms. Fentiman emphasized that access to safe termination-of-pregnancy care is a fundamental human right for sexual and reproductive autonomy.

“During the Queensland parliamentary committee process, stakeholders in reproductive and women’s health highlighted that the proposed changes would improve access to medical terminations of pregnancy closer to people’s homes,” she stated.

“It is not surprising that those in opposition will vote against these amendments.”

Concerns Raised by Liberal National Party MPs

Despite the legislation, concerns were raised by the Opposition about potential complications with abortion in regional areas, now that midwives can perform terminations of pregnancy.

Liberal National Party Shadow Minister for Health Ros Bates mentioned that including registered nurses goes against recommendations in a Labor-run Senate committee report that spurred this bill.

“When it comes to providing health services, we must ensure the basics are in place and then expand from there. Many regional towns lack essential services such as birthing facilities,” she pointed out.

“The government needs to focus on establishing well-resourced health services across these areas to ensure patient safety rather than risking it by expanding services prematurely.”

Ms. Bates expressed genuine concerns about safety risks for women in rural and regional Queensland.

Member for Toowoomba North Trevor Watts echoed these concerns, emphasizing his support for the right to life.

“The main issue with the bill is related to the Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018, which allows health practitioners to prescribe and administer the termination-of-pregnancy drug MS-2 Step,” Mr. Watts stated.

“The availability of health services in regional and remote Queensland to care for women facing complications from terminations under the proposed changes is a significant concern.”

The law, passed by the Queensland Parliament on March 7, also aims to improve midwife-to-patient ratios by counting newborns as separate patients.

“The Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (No.2) 2023 will enable Queensland to transition to a midwife-to-patient ratio, similar to nurse-to-patient ratios. Newborns will be counted separately,” the government announced.

“Midwife to patient ratios will be implemented gradually. From 2024, public maternity wards with high-level services delivering complex care and acting as a referral service will have a one midwife to six patient ratio.”

Premier Emphasizes Funding for Termination of Pregnancy

Queensland Premier Steven Miles also highlighted the abortion laws on various social media platforms.

He shared an image on X (formerly Twitter) stating “her body, her choice,” on March. 6.

“This week we’ve announced a significant funding increase for termination of pregnancy services,” he noted.

“It’s part of our Women and Girls’ Health Strategy. Making the decision to terminate a pregnancy is never easy. Women deserve the support and access to services they require during this time.”

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