By TANYA PLIBERSEK
For many Australian women the decision to terminate a pregnancy will be the most difficult they’ll ever make.
But it should always be one for the woman herself with the support of her family and doctor. Its not a decision that any government should make for her.
At the moment the majority of terminations in Australia are surgical, usually performed under sedation in hospitals or special clinics.
A much smaller number are “medical” terminations where mifepristone, better known as RU486, a synthetic steroid, is used to end early pregnancy.
Mifepristone is on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines and its use has been endorsed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. It was first registered in France and China in 1988 and is now registered in about 50 countries including the UK, the USA and New Zealand. Tens of millions of women around the world have used it.
No termination is without risks, but the risk of dying is higher from taking viagra than from medical termination.
An important difference when comparing medical and surgical termination of pregnancy may be that a woman need not travel to a hospital or clinic but can be supervised by a doctor who has had special training and be in her home with family support.
This would be particularly beneficial for women living in the country who wouldn’t have to travel long distances and stay away from home overnight or longer and find extra money for transport and accommodation.
As health minister I believe that mifepristone and its companion drug misoprostol should go through the same rigorous processes as any drug allowed to be used in Australia.
In the past, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has taken a different view. In 2006, when health minister, Mr Abbott voted in Parliament to maintain his veto power over RU486 – he wanted to keep RU486 a special case so he could prevent it being imported into Australia.