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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26255

Senator Allison asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing, upon notice, on 8 July 2004:

(1) What data, if any, is collected concerning the use of emergency contraceptive, Postinor 2.

(2) Is evidence being collected or research being conducted to assess: (a) the use of emergency contraception for avoiding unwanted pregnancies; and (b) the current effectiveness of emergency contraception as a means of avoiding medical abortions.

(3) What role does the Government consider emergency contraception to have in reducing: (a) unwanted pregnancies; (b) medical abortions; and (c) health costs in Australia.

(4) What efforts, if any, has the Government made to provide information to women about the use of emergency contraception.

(5) What evidence is available to indicate whether women in Australia are well-informed about the use of emergency contraception as a means of avoiding abortion.

(6) What evidence is available concerning the extent to which cost and access are barriers to the use of emergency contraception.

(7) (a) What are the Government's policy objectives for reducing the current abortion rate of one in four pregnancies; and (b) how will these objectives be met.

Senator Patterson (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) —The Minister for Health and Ageing has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The Department does not collect data on the use of the emergency contraceptive, Postinor-2. Additionally, the Department is not aware of such information being available in the public domain.

(2) (a) and (b) The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has independently assessed information on the use of levonorgestrel alone as a method of emergency contraception in the form of Postinor-2. The product's sponsor submitted a package of information as part of the registration application for Postinor-2, which was initially made available in Australia on prescription on the advice of the expert Australian Drug Evaluation Committee. The sponsor's package included reports of a number of clinical studies in women. Additionally, the National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee considered an evaluation of an additional submission from the product's sponsor when it recommended the change from `Prescription Only Medicine' to `Pharmacist Only Medicine' for Postinor-2.

(3) (a) and (b) The Government supports the provision of a range of safe, affordable and accessible family planning services, including the option of emergency contraception, in order to reduce unplanned pregnancies and termination of pregnancies in Australia.

(4) The Government has not actively provided Australian women with information on the use of emergency contraception. Information for women is available through a range of options, such as through family planning organisations, general practitioners and community pharmacies. Additionally, information on the appropriate use of Postinor-2 is provided in the Consumer Medicine Information document.

(5) The Department is not aware of any available evidence that has investigated Australian women's knowledge of emergency contraception.

(6) The Department is not aware of evidence on the barriers to the use of emergency contraception.

(7) (a) and (b) To reduce unplanned pregnancies and terminations of pregnancy in Australia, the Government funds the Family Planning Program to provide safe, affordable and accessible family planning services and a broad range of sexual and health education strategies that promote responsible sexual behaviour, rather than a focus on one particular strategy or program of action.