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University of Otago Department of Women’s and Children’s Health lecturer Emma Macfarlane believed little had changed in the way abortion services were organised in the year since the Abortion Legislation Act 2020 came into effect.
In an opinion piece published in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal, she outlines how abortion care could, and should, be provided within primary care to improve access and health outcomes for people with an unintended pregnancy.
But, she said, the health sector was not ready to provide best practice abortion care within the new legislation, with issues relating to funding, training, and access to medications.
Ms Macfarlane believed training for health practitioners was needed in order to provide safe abortion care.
“Without adequate and appropriate funding for primary care workers, including midwives, nurses and nurse practitioners, there will be no incentive to undertake the training, nor the provision of abortion care so access to safe abortion will not be improved."
Also key was access to funded drugs by a wider range of health practitioners.
Ultimately, she wanted to see abortion care treated like any other healthcare procedure.
“I hope for a future where abortion is not stigmatised and that a pregnant person can choose to have an abortion without fear of judgement.
"I would like health practitioners to be able to provide abortion care in the same way that they approach providing contraception, management of miscarriage, depression, or a heart condition."
A former Dunedin woman who had an abortion in the city in 2004 agreed.
The woman, who did not want to be named, said she was treated well by those involved in her care but there were still issues.
For one, she remembered being coached to say continuing with the pregnancy would impact her health, something that was legally required prior to the legislation change.
She also recalled having to walk past protesters outside Dunedin Hospital as she headed in for her termination. She remembered how they made her feel.
"You don’t have people out there protesting other procedures going on, and if this is a legal procedure ... you shouldn’t be subjected to that," she said.
"It was pretty awful."
A Bill that would establish a 150m safe area outside abortion providers is currently making its way through Parliament.