Mifegymiso is considered by the World Health Organization to be a “gold standard” for medical abortion, and is on the organization’s list of essential medications. It was approved by Health Canada back in July 2015, though it has been slow to reach Canadians.
Last November, Health Canada announced changes to the regulations around the medication.
Initially, it could only be dispensed by doctors. Now, pharmacists and certain health care professionals are also allowed to dispense it, though a prescription and ultrasound are still necessary. As well, it can now be taken up to the ninth week of pregnancy, rather than cutting off at the seventh week.
Costing approximately $300, it’s a hefty burden for an individual to take on. Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia have already come out stating they will cover the cost of Mifegymiso.
A statement from Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Health and Community Services delcated, “No decision has yet been made about covering the cost of Mifegymiso.” They also can’t identify how many pharmacies stock the medication.
Barriers Still There
This January marks the 30th anniversary of the Morgentaler decision, where the Supreme Court legalized abortion upon request in Canada. But while legal, there are still barriers across the country such as geography.
People in NL have to go to St. John’s if they want to terminate a pregnancy. In a province that has a significant rural population, that means travelling several hours for the procedure. While it’s covered under the provincial Medical Care Plan, there can be additional expenses for people who need to trek to the city. They can apply for the Medical Travel Assistance Program to help recover some of the extra costs, like travel expenses and accommodations if they have to spend the night in the city.
In comparison, options like Mifegymiso would help overcome some of the barriers regarding equal access. With a doctor willing to prescribe it and a pharmacy that has it in stock, people could have their abortions in the comfort of their homes. However, the price tag is still an obstacle.
“Women in Canada are entitled to free, universal, and accessible abortions. It is our hope that with the approval of Mifegymiso that access will improve as physicians incorporate medical abortion into their family practice in NL,” wrote Jenny Wright, executive director of the St. John’s Women’s Centre.
“The abortion pill must be included as part of a range of reproductive services and supports for women in our province. Currently, there is very limited access to abortion in our province and limited geographically to urban areas – the expense, time, and resources needed for women to travel to receive this essential service is a barrier that many women simply cannot overcome. The research is clear that this gap in service can place women’s lives, mental health, and economic status in danger. This is especially urgent in rural areas where women have little or no access to reproductive supports or services.”