British Columbia

Abortion pills replace demand for surgical termination of pregancy at Victoria clinic

The only standalone abortion clinic on Vancouver Island says demand for surgical abortions is way down because of the popularity of an abortion drug. Surgery is still available in a hospital setting, the clinic's executive director says, but few women choose it.

Vancouver Island Women's Clinic says uptake of Mifegymiso has been rapid

The Vancouver Island Women's Clinic says improved access to Mifegymiso has cut down the need for surgical abortions. (CBC)

The only standalone abortion clinic on Vancouver Island says demand for surgical abortions is way down thanks to the popularity of an abortion drug.

The Vancouver Island Women's Clinic in Victoria says the great majority of its patients are opting to end unwanted pregnancy with Mifegymiso instead of a surgical procedure.

"We had no idea that the uptake would be so rapid and so fast," clinic executive director Dawn Fowler told All Points West host Robyn Burns, adding that clients find the pill more private and convenient.

"For some women it also feels a bit more natural."

Mifegymiso is the brand name for the combination of two pills — one containing mifepristone and  the other misoprostol — which are used to terminate early pregnancies. In Canada, it can be taken up to nine weeks into a pregnancy.

The surgical option is still available, Fowler stressed, but is being done in hospital now. The clinic itself is also not closing.

A spokesperson for Island Health was unable to provide statistics, but said across the health authority's entire jurisdiction, surgical abortions are down as more women opt for the pill.

'A very safe, effective method'

Getting access to Mifegymiso in Canada was a long struggle, Fowler explained. It has been available since 1988, but Canada was one of the last countries to approve its use in 2017.

In B.C., the provincial government has covered the cost of it since Jan. 2018.

"It's been proven a very safe, effective method of terminating an unplanned pregnancy," Fowler explained.

Fowler said the next frontier for Mifegymiso access in B.C. is to improve availability in remote and rural areas. She believes as more doctors become comfortable and familiar with it, that will improve.

The Vancouver Island Women's Clinic also offers health services like contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections.

Listen to the full interview:

The only standalone abortion clinic on Vancouver Island says demand for surgical abortions is way down because of the popularity of an abortion drug. Surgery is still available in a hospital setting, the clinic's executive director says, but few women choose it. 9:11

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West

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