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Nova Scotia joins other provinces in Canada offering free abortion pill

The government of Nova Scotia joins the rest of Canada in offering free abortion pills to women who require it. They will also no longer require a doctor’s referral to book a surgical abortion at the Termination of Pregnancy Unit (TPU), Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. In the next few months, the Nova Scotia Health Authority will also be setting up a phone line so women can call and make appointments.

Nova Scotia was the only province to require a doctor’s referral for a surgical abortion.

Very slowly, provinces throughout Canada have pledge to publicly fund Mifegymiso, an abortion pill that will terminate pregnancy up to 49 days from the start of a woman’s last menstrual period. Mifegymiso is a combination of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, and is considered an easy and safe alternative to surgery.

A prescription from a doctor will still be required to get Mifegymiso from the pharmacy. The doctor must do an ultrasound to determine if there are any health risks; however, those women will be given “same day and urgent care” access to an ultrasound, meaning they don’t have to wait a few weeks in order to perform the tests.

The drug itself can cost up to $350, making it a significant barrier for women. That’s why universal coverage of the Mifegymiso is such an important development — no longer should women have to wait until they are eight weeks pregnant to get a surgical abortion. They now have much more control over their reproductive rights.

“We’re supporting more choice for women when it comes to their reproductive health,” said Kelly Regan, Minister responsible for the Status of Women, said in a statement. “This will ensure all Nova Scotia women have access to this option.”

The government estimates the cost of covering Mifegymiso will be between $175,000 and $200,000 per year; although women will be encouraged to use private insurance coverage first.

Alberta announced their intention to cover Mifegymiso in July, with Ontario following suit in August.

The last barrier to women’s control over their reproductive rights is free access to birth control.

 

Medical abortion drug available at no cost in Alberta

Earlier this year, a potentially life changing prescription drug arrived in Canada called Mifegymiso. What is Mifegymiso? With a name as complicated as it sounds, the drug follows a lot of controversy. It is the medical abortion pill that can terminate a pregnancy for up to 49 days following conception.

Women are slowly gaining access to more reproductive choices and on Monday, it was announced in Alberta that this pill will receive universal coverage, which means it will be free.  Alberta is the second Canadian province to approve universal coverage, following in the steps of New Brunswick. The new policy in New Brunswick also led to a change in abortion access.

Mifegymiso has been the choice drug for medical abortions for over 30 years and it was approved for use by Health Canada in July 2015, following an application time of three years. It became available in January 2017 for a cost of $300 and physicians are required to complete a training program before prescribing. In April 2017, New Brunswick approved coverage and now Alberta has joined them in July 2017.

The idea behind universal coverage is to remove financial barriers and allow women complete freedom over their reproduction choices. It also allows access to rural parts of Canada, where it is more difficult to access reproductive health care services due to the lack of physicians and skilled workers operating clinics.

Sandeep Prasad, the executive director for Action Canada for Sexual health and Rights, remarked that Alberta has shown great leadership in implementing universal coverage of the drug, and hopes it will  motivate other territories. “They have demonstrated that cost coverage is both necessary and possible, she said in a news release after the Government of Alberta announced their decision. “That is why we expect all provincial and territorial governments to commit to cost coverage programs of at least the same caliber as Alberta’s before the health ministers’ meeting in the Fall of 2017.”

Abortion is legal in Canada and in the province of Ontario, but there has been no amendment to covering the cost of Mifegymiso, but many expect the cost to be covered in this province by the end of the year as mentioned in the last budget.

Free Mifegymiso does not mean that the process is simple, as women are still required to do ultrasounds first before taking the pill so that doctors will assess if the candidate can undergo use of the drug. The pill is only available through prescription by your doctor.