Ministry of Health seeks innovative ways to deliver abortion services

By Charlie Dreaver for RNZ

The transformation of the country’s abortion services is one step closer, with the Ministry of Health seeking expressions of interest for projects that will improve abortion services.

Last year, abortion was decriminalised and the overseeing of administration changed hands from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Health.

Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall said since the new law passed there have been substantial improvements to services – in particular access to early abortions.

However, she said a recent survey revealed there were still inconsistencies and gaps across the country.

“Definitely geography remains a challenge and so we are looking at novel ways of working across that.

“There are also ethnic disparities and we know we need to do better for young, Māori women.”

She said there needed to be innovative ways to deliver abortion services to women and support the health practitioners involved.

“The Ministry of Health is seeking expressions of interest from providers to develop projects across three areas: establishing a new service that’s been co-designed with rangatahi Māori, improving access to existing services and providing better training for the workforce.”

Verrall said the main issue with getting the workforce for the services is that abortions are now being accessed differently since the law change.

“[There is] much greater use of early medical abortion, which is desirable clinically and for the women, so because that’s the new model and abortions are happening in different places and not necessarily in hospitals, then we need to think about how we best facilitate that,” she said.

Accessible abortion services for Māori, Pacific and disabled people is a key focus and applications will be evaluated on their ability to partner with Māori/iwi, youth, community and school-based workers and groups.

Verrall said taking abortion out of the Crimes Act and making it a health service meant pathways to the clinic were far more normal, removing the stigma.

“You might reach out to someone in your community if you have an unwanted pregnancy and there will be a relationship with the service provider who will help you find your way to the door,” she said.

Registrations of interest are now open on the New Zealand Government Electronic Tenders Service, for new and existing health service providers to lead this work alongside the Ministry of Health.

Contracts are set to be awarded to providers mid-year and will run for two years.

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