What does the reproductive healthcare senate inquiry mean for Australian women?

reproductive healthcare senate

Earlier this year a highly anticipated senate inquiry into reproductive healthcare recommended significant changes to Australia’s health system to make contraception, abortion and pregnancy care more accessible.


Overwhelmingly, the senate inquiry report places great emphasis on the essential role of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) in improving health, economic and social outcomes for women.


LARC methods are widely accepted to be some of the most effective methods of contraception available and include intrauterine device (IUD), progesterone-only subdermal implants, and progesterone-only injectable contraceptives1.  Additionally some IUDs can be used beyond contraception to treat conditions such as heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB). 

Despite this, the uptake of LARC in Australia is low compared to other developed countries2  and currently, we are looking at:

  • 40%-50% of Australian women having an unintended pregnancy during their reproductive lives3 .
    o    At the time of an unintended pregnancy more than half (56%) report not using any form of contraception. Those who were using contraception, report using less effective methods (oral contraception 64%, condoms 27%,) with less than 6% using LARCs4
  • Around one third of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.5

What are the challenges to LARC access?

While LARCs are widely available due to being listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), the challenges are around the limited number and sometimes experience of trained healthcare professionals who can insert the device6


There are presently long waiting times for insertions in most public clinics such as Family Planning Organisations and public hospital outpatient clinics. Alternatively, patients pay a high upfront cost for specialist or private clinic provider insertion7. In addition to this shortage of trained inserters other challenges to LARC access include reaching rural and regional locations and a lack of optimal referral pathways. 

So what are the key recommendations to improve access?

Awareness and education will be key for women, and their doctors have an essential role to play. 


However data indicates only 7% of general practice consultations include a discussion on LARCs.8,9


As a start we need incentives for doctors, better training and a better system to connect women with doctors who are inserters. These important factors have been addressed with the following key recommendations from the senate inquiry: 

  • Increased Medicare investment to support contraceptive consultation and device insertion/removal
  • Government support for enhanced training through medical peak bodies; and 
  • Implementation of national referral telephone service

You can read the full report and set of recommendations here

What’s next?

Although recommendations have been made, there needs to be further action from the government to drive these forward into actual policy change. 


If you feel passionately about improving contraceptive access for women, you can write to your elected representative in your area and help spread awareness about this opportunity to ensure Australian women are getting the best quality reproductive healthcare rivalling the best in the world. 


Access to high-quality reproductive healthcare is a fundamental right. At every stage of her life, women must be supported to make informed choices about their bodies. These harrowing statistics on unintended pregnancies tell another story and this is a story we can collectively change.

About Bayer

Bayer is a life sciences company with a 150-year history and core competencies in the areas of health and agriculture. We have been present in Australia since 1925 and today our company is working to bring science to address some of the greatest challenges of our time – from climate change to caring for growing and aging populations to improving food security and productivity. Over 60 years ago, Bayer launched its first oral contraceptive to Australian women.  Currently, our products in Women’s Health include oral contraceptives, LARCs, treatments for endometriosis, treatments for heavy menstrual bleeding, menopause and pregnancy nutrition products.


At Bayer, we have the fundamental belief that empowering girls and women, and providing them access to family planning, are central for sustainable development and achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This is also in line with our mission ‘’Health for All, Hunger for None’’. Family planning plays a crucial role in reducing poverty and hunger, improving the health and well-being of communities, ensuring high-quality education and economic growth, and sparking institutional and ecological changes that move toward fairness and equality.

1. National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health. Long-acting reversible contraception: The effective and appropriate use of long-acting reversible contraception. London, UK: RCOG Press, 2005.
2. Eeckhaut MCW et all. Who is using long-acting reversible contraceptive methods? Findings from nine low-fertility countries. 2014
3. Sydney: MSIA; 2008, Rowe H, et al. Prevalence and distribution of unintended pregnancy: the Understanding Fertility Management in Australia National Survey. Aust NZ J Public Health 2016;40:104- 9.
4. Taft et al. 2018. Unintended and unwanted pregnancy in Australia: a cross-sectional, national random telephone survey of prevalence and outcomes. MJA 209(9): 5 November 2018  
5. Taft et al. 2018. Unintended and unwanted pregnancy in Australia: a cross-sectional, national random telephone survey of prevalence and outcomes. MJA 209(9): 5 November 2018
6. Jean Hailes, 29 September 2021, “Connecting women and contraception”, accessed 26 Sep 2023 at https://www.jeanhailes.org.au/news/connecting-women-and-contraception 
7. Hummingbird Insights, Project Woodstock market research report, prepared for Bayer, August 2022, n = 150 GPs interviewed via online survey regarding contraception and heavy menstrual bleeding, fieldwork conducted July 11- Aug 2, 2022  
8. Subasinghe  et al.  2021 Current contraceptive use in women with a history of unintended pregnancies. Insights from the Australian Contraceptive ChOice pRoject (ACCORd) trial AJGP 50(6):422-425  
9. Mazza 2012, Current contraceptive management in Australian general practice: an analysis of BEACH data,  MJA 2012; 197: 110–114. doi: 10.5694/mja11.11599  


Bayer Australia Ltd, ABN 22 000 1 38 714, 875 Pacific Highway, Pymble NSW 2073. 
Ph: (02) 9391 6000. Date of Preparation: October 2023 / COR-UN-WHC-AU-0022-1