Free abortion pill will improve access in rural areas, K-W advocate says

Currently, many women in rural parts of the province have to travel to clinics in downtown Toronto access the abortion pill. With the province's announcement that the pill will be covered under OHIP starting next week, it should mean more family doctors will opt to prescribe it, one advocate says.

Province announces as of Aug. 10, abortion pill Mifegymiso will be free

The Ontario government announced it will cover the cost of Mifegymiso, a medical alternative to surgical abortion, starting Aug. 10. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

News that the province will fund the cost of the abortion pill as of Aug. 10 is great news for women in Waterloo region, says one local reproductive rights advocate.

On Thursday, the province said it will cover the cost of Mifegymiso, a medical alternative to surgical abortion, starting next week.

"The commitment to publicly funding Mifegymiso means women across Ontario will have fair and equal access to safe abortion without payment, judgment or exception," Minister of the Status of Women Indira Naidoo-Harris said in the announcement.

Lyndsey Butcher, executive director with Kitchener's Shore Centre — formerly Planned Parenthood — said the move will mean women in Waterloo region won't have to travel to Toronto to get the medication.

"Here in Kitchener-Waterloo as well as in the townships and rural areas, what this will mean is that women will have access to the abortion pill through their trusted, family doctor, who they know already," she said.

"Women won't have to travel to downtown Toronto for two separate appointments, which is what they currently have to do in order to access the abortion pill."

'The right decision'

In 2016, Health Canada approved the use of the pill Mifegymiso for non-surgical abortions up to seven weeks.

Sarah Hobbs-Blyth, executive director of Planned Parenthood Toronto, said Mifegymiso has been a safe and accessible abortion option for women in more than 60 countries for nearly 30 years.

"Provincial funding for reliable medical abortion is the right decision," she said in a statement, adding they "applaud" the move.

"The people of Ontario deserve reproductive healthcare regardless of income or location."

In a tweet, Planned Parenthood Ottawa called the move "great news."

Notisha Massaquoi, executive director of Women's Health in Women's Hands Community Health Centre in Toronto said they've been waiting for this after the province announced it would fund the abortion pill in its budget earlier this year.

"The Ontario government's decision to publicly fund this option is increasing our right to choose and will provide all Ontarians with barrier-free access to safe abortions regardless of socio-economic circumstances," Massaquoi said.

Women referred to downtown Toronto clinics

Butcher said the Shore Centre has referred more than 100 women to Toronto clinics since the abortion pill became available in January.

Those women have gone to the clinics in downtown Toronto and paid $300 to $460 out of pocket. After taking the medication, they had to return to the clinics, sometimes spending hours commuting, for a follow-up appointment.

Women won't have to travel to downtown Toronto for two separate appointments, which is what they currently have to do in order to access the abortion pill.- Lyndsey Butcher, executive director of the Shore Centre in Kitchener

Currently, there are just two doctors offices in Waterloo region that have expressed interest to the Shore Centre about offering prescriptions for the abortion pill. In order to prescribe it, doctors need to take a free, six-hour online course through the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.

"Our hope is that now that the medication is freely available under OHIP, that most family doctors will incorporate this into their practice, they'll become comfortable with providing it and that we can really incorporate abortion care into normal healthcare throughout the province," Butcher said.

She noted they plan to build a network of doctors, nurse practitioners and healthcare providers who will be able to prescribe the pill to help women in the region reach the care they need locally.


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