Photo credit Binuri Ranasinghe
Newfoundland and Labrador — the only province that does not provide at least partial coverage of the abortion pill — is under renewed pressure to do so.
Medical students and practitioners have written an open letter to the premier and health department asking for universal coverage of Mifegymiso, as well as supportive resources for physicians prescribing the drug.
Six out of 10 Canadian provinces offer universal coverage for the abortion pill Mifegymiso, but Saskatchewan's Ministry of Health confirms it's not looking at joining them.
In an email to CBC News, a ministry spokesperson said Mifegymiso or RU-486 is covered the same way as other prescription medications in the province.
"Someone who's located in Alberta now has better access to abortion. Someone in Saskatchewan still has very patchy access to abortion," explained Frederique Chabot, director of Health promotion for Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.
One year after the abortion pill became available to Canadian women, new numbers show thousands have used the new option for reproductive health care and sexual health experts say they expect that number to keep rising.
While advocates say there is still much work to be done to improve access to the drug, they told Global News they’re encouraged to see the demand for the medication among Canadian women seeking abortions.
“It was really great to see that number,” said Frederique Chabot, director of health promotion for Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.
“Until the month of November, there were really strict requirements in terms of who could prescribe Mifegymiso, who could dispense it. There are now six provinces that have universal cost coverage but that wasn’t the case for 2017.”
Doctors issued more than 4,000 prescriptions for the abortion pill Mifegymiso to Canadian women in 2017 — the first year it was available in Canada.
It's very encouraging," said Frederique Chabot, director of health promotion for Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, a non-profit, pro-choice agency.
Chabot said Mifegymiso can offer abortion access to women who live far from hospitals and clinics providing surgical abortions.
"When I think of women, for example, in Nunavik in Quebec who have to travel to Montreal to seek care — that's a plane ride and days away from your family, days away from your community and work. So we have a chance now to address some access issues," she said.
But while she said she's happy the drug was prescribed more than 4,000 times — even though the restrictions were only lifted last November — she added not all women in Canada have equal access to the pill.
The owner of a private abortion clinic in St. John's says she expects an abortion pill to become increasingly popular as an alternative to surgery.
Rolanda Ryan of the Athena Health Centre says 35 people have taken Mifegymiso, which has been available for just over a year from her clinic, and she expects to see a lot more interest in coming years.
Women will be able to make an appointment with a community-based physician for an abortion using pills, or schedule a surgical abortion at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.
The abortion pill remains out of reach of most Nova Scotia women, because doctors still cannot bill the province for providing it.
Ultrasound requirement still a barrier for Agassiz, Harrison, Hope
British Columbia will offer universal access to a medical abortion drug in a move that women's-health advocates say will particularly benefit those who live in rural and remote communities where abortion services are lacking.
British Columbia is the latest of six provinces to offer Mifegymiso at no cost.