Nova Scotia

Woman who waited 2 months for abortion says N.S. plan to provide free pill means shame is over

Melanie Mackenzie waited two months for an abortion four years ago and says the government's plan to remove barriers to abortion will change lives.

'There is no insult to your dignity,' says Melanie Mackenzie

Melanie Mackenzie said she had to wait two months before she could access an abortion. (CBC)

A Nova Scotia woman who waited two months for an abortion four years ago says the government's plan to remove barriers to terminating pregnancies will change lives.

Melanie Mackenzie was 29 when her birth control failed and she got pregnant. She immediately knew she wanted an abortion and went to her doctor to begin the process.

But she said waiting for the procedure was the worst experience of her life.

"I was pregnant for two months against my will and the first trimester is one of the most difficult times of a pregnancy," Mackenzie said Friday. "And I had to suffer through that alone and in shame because of Nova Scotia's laws."

The provincial government announced Friday that women will no longer need a referral from a physician in order to get a surgical abortion, while Mifegymiso — commonly known as the abortion pill — will be available for free as of Nov. 1.

Some barriers to access remain

The pill costs $350 and the government estimates the program will cost between $175,000 and $200,000 per year.

Women will still require a prescription, and as of Sept. 16 only 15 doctors and 55 pharmacists in the province had the necessary training to prescribe it.

Dr. Robyn MacQuarrie, an obstetrician gynecologist, said the lack of trained doctors remains a barrier when it comes to access to the pill.

"There's still some courses they want us to take to prescribe Mifegymiso and we need to encourage more pharmacies to stock the medication," she said.

Mifegymiso can be used to terminate a pregnancy up to 49 days. (CBC)

An ultrasound will also be required to rule out potential health risks and confirm gestational age, as the pill can only be used within the first 49 days of the pregnancy.

Wait times for ultrasounds often exceed 49 days, but Health Minister Randy Delorey said the Nova Scotia Health Authority is prepared to make any changes necessary to get women seeking abortions in faster.

"I believe they're confident that they can provide the services and ensure that the women who need this prescription will get the services that they require," Delorey told reporters.

Mackenzie said the announcement is a step in the right direction.

"There is no waiting period, there is no 'Are you sure?' period. There is no insult to your dignity," she said.