Quebec to offer abortion pill for free by early fall

Women in Quebec will be able to get RU-486, the abortion pill, for free by early autumn this year, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette has promised.

Women up to 7 weeks pregnant will be able to get RU-486, province's health minister promises

The abortion-inducing drug RU-486, marketed by the manufacturer Celopharma as Mifegymiso, has been legally available in Canada since July 2016, at a cost of around $300 for the two-step treatment. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

The abortion pill will be available to Quebec residents for free by early fall, Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette announced on Thursday.

"The government of Quebec has always been in favour of the right of women to choose, particularly in regards to abortion," said Barrette.

"The abortion pill is an additional option, among the methods for voluntarily ending a pregnancy, that has certain advantages for women."

Women who are up to seven weeks pregnant will be able to get the drug, Mifegymiso or RU-486, which is actually a two-medication package, through the province's health insurance plan, RAMQ. 

Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick have committed to offer it for free but are still working out how to make the drug available and who can prescribe it. 

Health Canada approved Mifegymiso in 2015, and Canadian doctors were able to start prescribing it on July 1, 2016.  

Barrette said that the Health Ministry decided to offer the drug for free after doing its own analysis to ensure the drug is efficient and safe.
Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette announced the province will offer the abortion pill for free by the end of autumn 2017. (Radio-Canada)

Ultrasound needed

The Quebec College of Physicians is still finalizing how the drug will be offered, the details of which Barrette says will be ready by early fall. 

An ultrasound will be mandatory, Barrette said, as well as a follow-up appointment

"The drug cannot be administered and will never be administered if there isn't proof that the pregnancy is under 49 days of duration. It has to be dated, in all circumstances," the minister said.

Physicians will also use the ultrasound to ensure women requesting the drug don't have an ectopic pregnacy, which is when when an embryo implants outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes. 

"It is not the morning after or the day after pill, it's something totally different that might have some complications," said Barrette.

Women will need a prescription to access the drug, but doctors cannot be forced to prescribe the drug if abortion goes against their personal convictions, Barrette said.

The cost of RU-486 varies but usually is around $300, the price set by the manufacturer, Celopharma.

"We would have gone forward with this decision even if the price was on average a higher cost than the regular surgical procedure. We would have gone forward because we believe, again, that women in this province do have a choice and this is a choice," said Barrette.

Quebec's Health Ministry recently negotiated a bulk price for the drug with the manufacturer on behalf of all provinces but would not reveal the price when asked by CBC News, citing confidentiality.

Other provinces across Canada were waiting for Quebec to finish negotiations before determining if and when they'd be able to offer the pill free of charge.


  • An earlier version of this story stated that the abortion pill was available for free in Manitoba. The pill is available in Manitoba, but it is not currently covered by the province's health plan.
    Jul 06, 2017 3:56 PM ET

with files from Lauren McCallum, Marilla Steuter-Martin and Radio-Canada