Action Canada Disappointed by Delay but Optimistic over Eventual Approval of Mifepristone

For immediate release

Health Canada has requested additional information for its review of mifepristone (RU-486), a request that will further postpone the availability of a drug that would increase access to medical abortion (sometimes referred to as medication abortion) across Canada.

Although Action Canada is concerned that many people seeking to terminate a pregnancy still do not have access to abortion services like mifepristone, we are confident that the request for additional information is part of a thorough scientific review by Health Canada and that it will lead to the approval of the drug as a safe and effective method for early abortion in Canada.

While abortion is legal in Canada, access to the essential service is limited across the country. Only 16% of Canadian hospitals offer abortion services, many of which are located in urban areas and within 150 km of the US border. The availability of mifepristone would increase equal access to what is considered the gold standard for this essential health service.

Medical abortion in Canada is currently available up to 7 weeks from last menstrual period using a combination of methotrexate and misoprostol. In countries where mifepristone is available, medical abortion is provided up to 9 weeks gestation. It is estimated that less than 4% of all abortions in Canada are medical abortions while upward of 50% of women opting to terminate their pregnancy in countries where mifepristone is available choose medical abortion.

The combination regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol is listed as an essential drug by the World Health Organization (WHO) and available in at least 57 countries. Mifepristone followed by misoprostol is also recommended by the WHO as the most effective method for safe medical abortion.

Canada has an obligation to provide Canadians with the highest standard of care available. As a Party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Canada has also committed to ensure quality health services that are both available and accessible.

Access to safe and legal abortion services is part of every person’s right to health and the human right of all people to make autonomous decisions about their bodies. Increased access to safe abortion in Canada with the approval of mifepristone will be a welcomed announcement that is long overdue.