Sunday, July 3, 2022

Helping You Decide: There’s a New Helpline That’ll Allow Women Over-the-Phone Prescriptions for Abortions

Choosing whether or not to go through with a pregnancy is one of the biggest life decisions you can make – and up until recently, choosing abortion was technically a crime. Decriminalised in 2020 (finally something GOOD out of that Godforsaken year) the focus is now improving abortion services across the country – like this week’s announcement.

Announced by the associate health minister this week, Decide is a national telehealth service that’ll connect people with “abortion information, advice and counselling over the phone,” says Dr Ayesha Verrall.

Currently, abortion telehealth services are offered by some District Health Boards (DHBs), but not all. Expanding this service nationally is a massive step in improving and equalising access to abortion services.

“In-person care will always be offered, but it’s important that other options are available as well where suitable.

“Telehealth makes it easier for people to reach the services and support that already exist, particularly those who find it difficult to visit a doctor or clinic. It also gives assurance to health practitioners that their patients have additional sources of support.”

Decide will be rolled out in three phases. Referrals and information about abortion services will be available from 26 April, 2022. Follow-up care and abortion-related counselling will be available from 1 July 2022.

The final phase, set for November 2022 includes telemedicine, which means providing clinical consultations for an early medical abortion over the phone and couriering medications.

“As part of the telemedicine service, people will be able to immediately talk to a practitioner willing to provide abortion services, removing a key barrier for some people.”

All patients of this service will be part of an active follow up process and services will be available via the free, dedicated number 0800 DECIDE.

Decide will be led by Family Planning and Magma Healthcare (also trading as The Women’s Clinic). Both organisations are recognised experts in abortion and sexual health, alongside DHB providers, and have experience in providing sexual health and abortion services via telehealth.

A website (www.decide.org.nz) will be active from 26 April 2022 to provide accurate, impartial information about abortion services in New Zealand to help people make informed decisions about their pregnancy. This website will also connect people to the Decide telehealth service.

“Everyone should be able to access abortion information and care when they need it,” Dr Verrall tells.

“The national telehealth service is part of wider improvements to abortion provision. Earlier this year, Government lifted some of the funding restrictions on abortion medication, which enabled a wider range of health practitioners like GPs and nurses, to prescribe them.

“Changes like this continue to build on quality, accessible abortion care.”

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