PEI

Abortion pill approval: P.E.I. groups on both sides react

It remains unclear how easy it will be for P.E.I. women to access RU-486 following Health Canada's approval of the abortion drug this week.

RU-486, which can terminate pregnancies under 7 weeks, greenlighted by Health Canada

The abortion-inducing drug RU-486. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

It remains unclear how easy it will be for P.E.I. women  to access RU-486 following Health Canada's approval of the abortion drug this week.

It was confirmed Thursday that the regulator has approved the use of Mifegymiso to terminate pregnancies under seven weeks. Studies suggest it can be used safely as late as 70 days into a pregnancy.

The province says it will talk to the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health about the drug in the near future.

Becka Viau of the Abortion Rights Network of P.E.I., says the province needs to ensure RU-486 is accessible and affordable. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)
Available since 1988 in France, the drug was approved in the United States in 2000 and is available in more than 57 countries.

Some medical experts say it's more effective and efficient than the current medical options available in Canada.

"The announcement from Health Canada I think is good news for P.E.I. if the government can ensure that this medication can be widely accessible and affordable for women on P.E.I.," said Becka Viau of the Abortion Rights Network of P.E.I.

Doctor education, registration

But the president of the P.E.I. Right to Life Association Holly Pierlot says she was upset when she heard about Health Canada's decision.

"We're a pill-popping society. We have TV commercials all the time with the risks of side effects including fatalities, which may be for an ingrown toenail," she said.

"You know, we're used to taking risks with our drugs, but the risks remain."

Women will need to obtain a prescription from a doctor to purchase the combination drug.

Holly Pierlot, president of the P.E.I. Right to Life Association says there are risks to taking drugs. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)
The National Abortion Federation in Canada says Mifegymiso will likely initially only be available through health-care professionals who already provide abortion services. But it hopes that more doctors will agree to prescribe the drug over time.

P.E.I is the only province in Canada where women cannot get surgical abortions. They have to travel off-Island.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of P.E.I. says it will be up to individual doctors to prescribe the abortion pill, as it is with all medications. Doctors will also dispense the drug, but only after undergoing an education program and registration.

"It would depend wholly on whether a physician wants to learn about it and take the time to practice it and whether there's availability to deal with any complications that might arise," said Cyril Moyse, the college's registrar.

The P.E.I. College of Pharmacists says pharmacists will not be involved in dispensing or selling the drug.

The pill is expected to be available for sale in winter 2016.

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