Our second national Unplanned Pregnancy and Abortion in Australia conference was held in Brisbane on 3 and 4 August 2017.
The conference included presentations by over 40 speakers from legal, clinical, academic, and community sectors around the country, including representatives from:
- five Australian universities;
- six public hospitals and health services;
- the Family Planning services from five states and territories;
- eleven abortion providers;
- three international reproductive health charities working in developing countries;
- White Ribbon Australia;
- the Human Rights Law Centre;
- the Castan Centre for Human Rights; and
- the National Alliance of Abortion and Pregnancy Options Counsellors.
The conference was opened by writer and broadcaster Jane Caro and included speakers from the Queensland and federal parliaments.
Over 200 delegates from across Australia and New Zealand attended, including members of the Queensland Law Reform Commission, the Royal Australian College of General Practice, the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and health and community professionals working with women experiencing unplanned pregnancy in schools, hospitals, sexual health clinics, and other fields of practice.
Evaluations from delegates after the conference concluded were overwhelmingly positive, with 85% reporting an extreme or significant increase in knowledge and connectedness, and 89% that the conference had an impact on how they would do things in their own role in future. Over 70% of delegates rated their satisfaction level as excellent.
Conference profits are being used to support our Queensland Abortion Fund, providing financial assistance to women facing extreme disadvantage for abortion and contraceptive access.
Conference calls to action
The following calls to action were endorsed by all delegates at the close of the conference:
We call on state, territory and federal governments to develop and implement a comprehensive, well-resourced, outcome-driven National Strategy on Reproductive and Sexual Health. This strategy should:
- provide a coordinating role across states and territories to ensure equitable access to information and services, particularly for those groups most vulnerable to poorer health outcomes;
- aim to improve maternal health outcomes, reduce rates of unplanned pregnancy, and reduce inequalities in access to pregnancy care, contraceptive choice and abortion services;
- complement and build upon related existing national strategies including those on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, women’s health, men’s health, sexually transmissible infections, LGBTI health, health and disability, migrant and refugee health, and violence prevention; and
- be underpinned by a human rights approach and a commitment to reducing stigma and enhancing reproductive and sexual health across the lifespan.
The immediate decriminalisation of abortion in all Australian jurisdictions, alongside appropriate, evidence-based health regulations to ensure safe, timely and accessible abortion services.
The introduction of safe access zones in all Australian jurisdictions, to protect patients and professionals from harassment and intimidation while entering or leaving abortion provider premises.
The implementation of a national long acting reversible contraception guideline to improve uptake and remove barriers to effective contraceptive choices faced by vulnerable groups.
The introduction of a national de-identified data collection scheme to report on abortion rates and patient outcomes to enable better service planning and enhance policy responsiveness.
For public health systems, health departments and policy makers to take responsibility for ensuring everyone in their region has equitable access to abortion services (including second and third trimester procedures) and contraceptive services, in particular for rural, regional and remote areas and those experiencing disadvantage and financial difficulties, by utilising a range of care models including GP and nurse led service models.
For transparency in pregnancy counselling advertising to be legislated at a national level to prevent deceptive practices by services ideologically opposed to abortion and to enable health consumers to be informed about the services they access. We also call on government funding to be allocated only to pregnancy counselling services that provide unbiased and evidence-based support on all pregnancy options, including abortion.
A national commitment to a long-term funding increase in Australia’s aid program which has dedicated gender equity targets and includes guaranteed designated funding for reproductive health programs in developing countries to improve the health outcomes for women and girls – including the provision of unbiased and evidence base information and services relating to contraceptive choices, pregnancy and maternity care, birthing, and abortion, according to the laws of the country in which programs are being delivered.
Speaker presentations and conference report
The powerpoints from most speakers can be found below.
Presentations: Thursday 3 August, 2017
Morning plenary session: Abortion law reform
Dr Suzanne Belton: WhatRU4NT? campaign, Northern Territory.
Professor Heather Douglas: TC Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland.
Julie Hamblin: HWL Ebsworth Lawyers, New South Wales.
Workshops [no powerpoints used]
Abortion in the context of migration - Branka Bogdan
LGBTIQ affirming practice in reproductive autonomy and sexuality education - Nikki Whitmore
Abortion law reform stream
Abortion law reform on the frontier - Dr Barbara Baird and Dr Suzanne Belton
Improving access to abortion in South Australia - Dr Barbara Baird and Brigid Coombe
So you want to be an abortion rights activist? - Anna McCormack [no powerpoint used]
Unplanned pregnancy and contraception stream
Contraception biographies and reproductive justice: the value of life course research in understanding limited uptake of long acting reversible contraception - Dr Jessica Gunson [currently unavailable]
Understanding of long acting reversible contraception amongst women presenting for abortion - Dr Gaithri Mylvaganam [currently unavailable]
Tips and tricks on providing contraception post abortion - Dr Colinette Margerison
Current and future emergency contraception choices in Australia - Dr Helen Calabretto [unavailable]
The intersection between unplanned pregnancy, abortion and domestic violence stream
Terminating the violence - Samantha Campbell
Abortion training and maintaining a workforce stream
A lost curriculum? Abortion care in general practice training - Dr Simon Wilson
Ensuring a workforce for equitable provision of abortion - Brigid Coombe
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist's Sexual and Reproductive Health Advanced Training Module - Dr Paddy Moore [currently unavailable]
Afternoon plenary session: International perspectives on reproductive health
Senator Claire Moore: Shadow Minister for International Development & the Pacific [no powerpoint used]
Johanna Wicks: International Planned Parenthood Federation, Australia
Chris Turner: Marie Stopes International Australia
Dr Caroline de Costa: Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, James Cook University [currently unavailable]
Presentations: Friday 4 August, 2017
Morning plenary session: Advancements in medical abortion provision
Dr Paul Hyland: Tabbot Foundation
Dr Phillip Goldstone: Marie Stopes International Australia
Elizabeth Powers & Dr Heather McNamee: Cairns Sexual Health Clinic
Facilitating and improving access to abortion stream
Hidden women: The impact of poverty on abortion access - Selina Utting, Susan Stark and Nicola Sheeran
Improving safety in abortion care with in situ simulation of emergencies - Dr Simon Wilson
Migration, health literacy and health access - Branka Bogdan
Evolving models of medical abortion stream
Telemedicine prevents patient abuse - or does it? - Dr Lynette Shumack [currently unavailable]
Different ways of providing medical terminations in the community - Dr Colinette Margerison
Counselling and reflection stream
Women's stories of abortion - Michelle Reynolds [currently unavailable]
Use of self: tools for self-awareness in pregnancy options care - Susan Stark and Siân Tooker
Review of worker vicarious trauma after introduction of reflective group supervision at Pregnancy Advisory Service - Louise Logan [currently unavailable]
Supporting all choices stream
Accessing abortion post 20 weeks - Dr Carol Portmann
Counselling and supporting women seeking abortion at 18 to 24 weeks gestation - Trish Hayes, Suzanne Hurley and Chanel Keane [no powerpoint used]
Evaluation/review of the Pregnancy Advisory Service care planning/case management model - Deb Newton [powerpoint unavailable]
Counting on one hand: Reflections on gender selection in prgnancy options counselling - Liz Price [no powerpoint used]
Overcoming challenges in providing abortion stream
Implementing termination services in a conservative Queensland town - Dr Colinette Margerison [currently unavailable]
Barriers to access in remote rural Queensland - Kym Boyes [no powerpoint used]
Safe access zones - Dr Ronli Sifris, Emily Howie and Amy Webster