No-cost medical abortions ‘a game changer’ in B.C. women’s health care

Mifegymiso used to cost about $300 out-of-pocket

Free, confidential access to medical abortions will make choosing to terminate a pregnancy safer for B.C. women, according to UBC associate Dr. Wendy Norman.

The province announced Tuesday that it would be making abortion drug Mifegymiso available at no cost in B.C., starting on Jan. 15.

The drug costs approximately $300 out-of-pocket.

“This is a huge advance,” said Norman, a principal investigator at the Women’s Health Research Institute at BC Women’s Hospital.

“This is a game changer.”

After the drug was approved, Ottawa looked into whether it should be covered by public health plans.

“In the spring, the [federal] agency that does the Common Drug Review on cost effectiveness recommended that this was cost effective and that the government should cover it.”

Medical abortion, Norman noted, has been available around the world for almost 30 years in more than 60 countries.

Canada only approved Mifegymiso in January 2017 and the first abortion using the drug was performed last Jan. 10.

While other drugs can be used in Canada for medical abortions, Norman said they’re less safe and effective, with only four per cent of women seeking abortions using them each year.

“They have a higher rate of needing surgical intervention if it doesn’t work and having more potential side effects,” said Norman. “By comparison, in northern European countries more than three-quarters of women seeking abortion use medical abortions.”

In B.C., however, the majority of women opt for surgical abortions out of a lack of other options.

“Women who are trying to decide whether to have a medical or surgical abortion should be making that decision based on their health, not on their postal code,” Norman said.

Equalizing access, ensuring privacy

Mifegymiso will be available at pharmacies across the province and can be prescribed by a family doctor or nurse practitioner.

Norman said that allowing women to make choices about their health in the privacy of a doctors office is key to ensuring access for women who want to stay discreet.

Women can avoid “going to a surgical clinic where they might be identified going in or out by protesters or others. Nobody needs to know what you’re talking to your own doctor or nurse about.”

Mifegymiso, which can be used within the first nine weeks of pregnancy, is a safer and easier to arrange option, Norman said.

“Abortion is safer every week earlier in the pregnancy and it’s always safer than carrying a pregnancy to term,” she said.

“If you’re able in your own community to access an early medical abortion, then this is safer than having to wait two to three weeks to make the arrangements to get into a city or to make an appointment at a clinic

Although recovery time is similar for both surgical and medical abortions, Norman said, medical abortions lack the travel time and can be planned at the least disruptive time.

“You can take [the drug] home and decide you want to start the medical abortion on a Friday evening and have your abortion happen over the weekend, which isn’t a choice when you’re trying to book surgery and their only spot might be a Tuesday afternoon,” said Norman.

“You might miss a day [of work] to travel there, a day while you’re there and a day or two afterwords before you can return to your work.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Chilliwack retiree to share unused farmland with urban farmer in need

Young Agrarians program is interested in fostering the next generation of farmers

Crown seeks 4.5 years jail for Chilliwack woman convicted of counselling tax evasion

Debbie Anderson the latest from local group to face jail for teaching debunked ‘natural person’ theory

UPDATE: Tsunami warning cancelled for coastal British Columbia

Warning issued following 7.9 earthquake off Kodiak, AK

‘Restless night’ for Semiahmoo First Nation after tsunami warning

Alaska earthquake puts Semiahmoo First Nation on notice

UPDATE: Police probe fuel truck and train collision in Port Coquitlam

CP Rail reporting no injuries, driver of truck is safe.

Homeless evicted from Chilliwack First Nation say they have nowhere to go

‘Why not just let us stay until spring?’ one camper pleads

Andrew Scheer on trade, Trump and Trudeau

Canada’s Conservative leader begins three-day visit to B.C.

Victims restrained, sex toys and cash stolen from B.C. adult store

Armed suspects sought in adult store robbery

UPDATED: 10 Safeways in Lower Mainland to close

Locations in Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam, Richmond and Mission slated to shut

Vancouver Islanders ponder need for tsunami siren song

Alarm sounds in Port Alberni but not at the DND base in Esquimalt

Five charged in bid to shut pop-up pot market in Vancouver’s Robson Square

Marijuana flower, edibles, money and some weapons were seized as part of weekend raid

Babcock, Goyette and Smyth honoured at Order of Hockey in Canada

Mike Babcock, from Saskatoon, guided the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup in 2008

Bell Canada alerts customers who may be affected by latest data breach

Federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner said it had been notified

‘The tsunami alarm failed my household’: North Coast residents concerned over sirens, alerts

People living in northern communities share how they learned about Tuesday’s tsunami warning

Most Read