Nfld. & Labrador

Plenty of barriers for new 'abortion pill,' St. John's physician warns

Almost a year after it was approved for sale in Canada, "the abortion pill" is still not available for women in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Health Canada approved the treatment in 2015 but the pills still aren't available in this country

A St. John's doctor says there are problems with how the abortion pills will be administered. 7:14

Almost a year after it was approved for sale in Canada, "the abortion pill" still has not reached Newfoundland and Labrador  — but a St. John's physician says that's not the only problem facing local patients.

Dr. Kelly Monaghan of Clinic 215 in St. John's says there are a number of barriers, including cost and ultrasound requirements that will make the pills hard to access, once they become available.

The pills that terminate an unwanted pregnancy were supposed to hit the market in July but the pill's Canadian distributor says they won't be available across the country until at least Fall.

Monaghan said the fact that physicians are expected to dispense pills that cost more than $250-dollars is ​one of the most controversial aspects of the service. Usually, pharmacists — not doctors — handle and dispense prescriptions.

"Providers worry that is going to make the service inaccessible," she said in an interview with the St. John's Morning Show.

'[Dispensing the pills] would be cost prohibitive and it's really a huge barrier- Dr. Kelly Monaghan

"For doctors, especially those in rural Newfoundland, we don't have the network and skills to stock, rotate and eliminate the product from our clinical shelf. It would be cost prohibitive and it's really a huge barrier," 

Ultrasound access also a problem

Monaghan says there is another potential obstacle for women in this province — a requirement that a woman must have an ultrasound before receiving the pills.

"The product is meant to be used in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. So the stipulation is that a woman has an ultrasound to confirm she is in the window for treatment but unfortunately access to ultrasound is an issue, again most particularly in rural Newfoundland" she said.

Despite these issues Monaghan believes the eventual availability of the pill here will help some women.

"The only place that surgical abortion is available in this province is St. John's so some people have to travel great distances to access the service, from Labrador, from the Northern Peninsula and it can be a very difficult journey and in some cases not financially possible," she said.

"I think it's exciting in that hopefully women in Newfoundland and Labrador will not have to travel such long distances for a very important service."