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Read what’s making headlines at SPHERE and within the women’s sexual and reproductive health research community.

$1 a day for half your life: The cost of contraception is a bitter pill to swallow

Everyone has purchases that make them squirm. For me, it’s birth control. I wince every three months or so when the time comes to tap my card at the chemist and spend another $85 on the pill. At this rate, I’m up for about $11,000 in out-of-pocket costs over my lifetime* on contraception alone. That’s before doctor’s appointments, prescriptions and pregnancy itself are factored in.

Federal government urged to make telehealth services for abortions permanent

The federal government is under pressure to make telehealth services for abortion and reproductive health permanently available via Medicare. During the COVID-19 pandemic, new subsidies under the Medicare system were introduced for abortion and sexual health services to bypass the "established clinical relationship" rule.

Online myths linked to rise in unplanned pregnancies, experts claim

An expert panel has said social media myths could contribute to high rates of unplanned pregnancies in Australia and urged for broader education on birth control. “There has been a lot of misinformation around pain and IUD insertion,” Professor Deborah Bateson from the University of Sydney said.

Home test that checks if an abortion has worked reduces follow-up surgery, study finds

A successful Australian trial of a urine test to detect whether an abortion has worked will be welcomed by rural and remote patients, say clinicians

‘A postcode lottery’: The 17 areas with no abortion access in Victoria

Hundreds of women in rural and regional Victoria have no access to surgical and medical terminations close to where they live, forcing some to travel for hours to get an abortion. Red tape to prescribe the abortion pill will be removed from this month, but reproductive healthcare providers say the change will not end the “postcode lottery” many women are faced with.

Experts call for immediate action from Senate reproductive healthcare inquiry

The SPHERE Coalition, chaired by Monash University’s SPHERE Centre of Research Excellence, has called for immediate action to implement the recommendations made by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee (The Committee), following the Senate inquiry into universal access to reproductive healthcare.

Expanded abortion access 'removes suspicion' for GPs

Major changes to the prescribing and dispensing requirements for a medical abortion pill will remove red tape for primary care practitioners and increase access for women across Australia. General practitioners have been reassured they no longer need to feel “suspicious” about the red tape surrounding the prescribing of the medical abortion pill, a prominent GP has said, after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) removed a number of restrictions in prescribing and dispensing the medical abortion pill MS-2 Step (mifepristone and misoprostol).

Medical Abortions Will Soon Become Widely Available In Australia — And It's Long Past Time

Australian women will have better access to medical abortions, after a number of restrictions against the termination pill were lifted. Previously, the drug, known as MS2-Step or RU486, could only be prescribed by specially certified doctors, and dispensed by select authorised pharmacies.

Therapeutics Goods Administration move is a step in the right direction for easier abortions

This week's announcement by the federal Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ged Kearney, deregulating the prescribing and dispensing of the medical abortion pill, mifepristone, by the Therapeutics Goods Administration is both welcome and, quite frankly, about time.

Medical abortion without the red tape

Cutting the training, certification and registration requirements on medical termination won’t flood Australia’s abortion deserts with providers, but it’s still a welcome move. Mifepristone and misoprostol (MS-2 Step, MS Health Pty Ltd) will still only be indicated for use up to nine weeks (63 days) of gestation, but GPs will no longer need additional training to prescribe the medicine.

MS-2 Step access set to expand.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has announced that several restrictions around prescribing mifepristone and misoprostol (MS-2 Step) for medical terminations will soon be lifted. Currently, only certified doctors can prescribe the medication, which is then dispensed by a registered pharmacist.

Access to medical abortion is set to be expanded in Australia. Here's what it means.

Medical abortions will become more accessible for all Australian women, as restrictions on the medications are scrapped. Following a Senate inquiry into universal access to reproductive healthcare, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has announced they will remove a number of restrictions around prescribing and dispensing of the medical abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol.

Regulation Changes Expand Medical Abortion Prescription Availability for Doctors

Medical abortions are set to become more accessible in Australia, with changes coming into place on August 1. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is removing the requirement for extra certification or special registration for prescribers and chemists dispensing the medicine. This move is expected to remove a significant barrier to accessing medical abortions, but there is still a need to increase the number of healthcare professionals prescribing the medicine.

More doctors will soon be able to prescribe medical abortions.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has expanded the number of practitioners who can prescribe and dispense abortion pills, making them as accessible as any other prescription. Ged Kearney, our federal Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care announced a landmark decision following an in-depth Senate investigation into universal reproductive healthcare access.

Changes to abortion regulation will come into effect next month in a bid to increase access.

Medical abortions are set to become more accessible, with prescribers and chemists dispensing the medicine no longer needing to receive extra certification or special registration. Under changes coming into place on August 1, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is removing those requirements, with MS 2-step soon able to be prescribed like any other medicine.

 AMs for warrior women of reproductive health

Two warriors of equity and access in reproductive health have been rewarded for their decades of service to Australian women with King’s Birthday honours. Professor Deborah Bateson, professor of practice at the Daffodil Centre, and Professor Danielle Mazza, chair of general practice at Monash University, were both named Members of the Order of Australia (AM) at the weekend.

RACGP calls for ‘more action’ following reproductive healthcare report

The Senate Community Affairs References Committee (the Committee) has made 36 recommendations to the Federal Government following its inquiry into universal access to reproductive healthcare. The report, handed down on Thursday, features a number of RACGP proposals taken from its submission to the inquiry in December.

No move to force public hospitals on abortion.

The Senate Community Affairs Committee’s report into universal access to reproductive healthcare has stopped short of recommending public hospitals’ government funding be tied to the provision of abortion services. The committee has recommended requiring private health services that conscientiously object to provide a direct and immediate pathway for women seeking a termination, and a national telephone advisory service for contraception, pregnancy options including abortion and sexual health – but it has dodged the question of conscientious objectors running public hospitals.

Will today’s Senate Inquiry re-ignite hopes for universal public abortion in Australia?

After months of anticipation and delays, Australia’s first-ever Senate Inquiry into universal access to reproductive healthcare is due to be released today. We – a group of researchers dedicated to improving sexual and reproductive health and rights – are among those eagerly hoping it carries with it fiscal commitment to abortion care. The 2023-2024 Budget announced on May 2 certainly did not.

IUD insertion clinics might solve two problems with one scheme.

IUDs are one of the most effective forms of contraception, but the process of having one inserted can be incredibly painful. Intra uterine devices, or IUDs, are small T-shaped contraceptive devices inserted in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. They're more than 99 per cent effective, significantly more failsafe than the two most common forms of contraception in Australia — the pill and condoms — which are effective around 91 per cent of the time and 88 per cent of the time.

How nurses can close the gap for regional reproductive health care.

Access to abortion and contraception in rural and regional Australia could be improved wth nurse-led models of care in general practice. The overturning of Roe v Wade has reduced access to essential reproductive health care in the United States and caused concern about the current state of reproductive health care in Australia.

Calls for copper IUDs to be subsidised by the federal government.

Doctors are calling on the federal government to fund access to non-hormonal IUDs to increase uptake of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are among the most effective contraceptives on the market, with an efficacy of between 99.5-99.9 per cent.

Systemic approaches needed to address wide-ranging inequities affecting women’s health.

Women in Australia have seemingly made significant strides towards equality with men in recent decades despite the World Economic Forum reporting that we are making rather limited progress with Australia 43rd on the global gender gap index. While gender disparities still exist, women are working in leadership roles at all levels of government, education and business. 

‘Tsunami of abortions’: Public hospitals accused of blocking terminations.

Public hospitals have been accused of stonewalling women seeking surgical abortions where senior staff are staunchly pro-life or fear an influx of abortions could cripple their already overstretched resources. Dr Emma Boulton, the director of sexual health practice Clinic 66 in Chatswood, said her staff were given a gamut of excuses from public hospitals in both Sydney and regional NSW when they needed to refer women with complex cases or late-term pregnancies for terminations.

‘A fundamental issue’: RACGP calls for changes to reproductive healthcare.

At a Senate Inquiry, Dr Nicole Higgins and Professor Danielle Mazza will be pushing for greater support for GP training to build workforce capacity. While Australians have access to universal healthcare, when it comes to reproductive care, travelling hundreds of kilometres and being hundreds of dollars out of pocket is not an uncommon experience – particularly for women in rural and remote parts of the country.

Women share difficulties and stigma around accessing abortion care with Senate inquiry.

Feeling shamed and judged, travelling hundreds of kilometres and ending up significantly out of pocket: these are some of the issues raised by women in their own words with abortion access in Australia. The stories were gathered by Monash University as part of an ongoing research project into what barriers, or enablers, there are for people seeking abortions.

Push to make abortion more accessible.

Recertification for GP providers is one of the barriers experts are calling to be lifted to ensure accessibility across Australia. Abortion is legal across Australia, with South Australia the last state to decriminalise it in 2021. But many patients are still facing challenges in accessing the service.

‘So far from science’: GPs desperate to debunk sexual health myths on social media.

Doctors are fighting an uphill battle against misinformation about sexual health and contraception – including yoghurt-based thrush remedies, “cancer-causing” contraception, and requests for genital surgery – as young people increasingly turn to social media for medical advice.