Cost coverage of abortion pill doesn’t improve rural access

Cost coverage of abortion pill doesn’t improve rural access

Ultrasound requirement still a barrier for Agassiz, Harrison, Hope

The B.C. government’s recent announcement of universal, no-cost coverage for Mifegymiso – an oral alternative to surgical abortion – has been looked to as an answer for improving access to abortion in rural communities across the country.

The combination of Mifepristone and Misoprostol, currently free in five other Canadian provinces, is used to terminate early pregnancies only –up to nine weeks or 63 days from the last menstrual period.

Most B.C. pharmacies will provide Mifegymiso once it becomes fully cost-covered Jan.15, and will likely order it on an as-needed basis.

But the zero-cost price tag on the pill may remove just one of many barriers facing rural women with unwanted pregnancies.

To get a prescription, patients are required to have an ultrasound to confirm the gestation stage and ensure that an ectopic pregnancy – when a pregnancy occurs outside the uterus – isn’t taking place.

Most rural doctor clinics don’t have ultrasound equipment, so patients will need to travel to the closest hospitals or urban centres where ultrasounds are available. Even then, long wait times can cause delays and ultrasounds at private clinics often come with a fee.

Frédérique Chabot, director of health promotions for Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, says that since the decriminalization of abortion nearly 30 years ago, improving access in rural communities has been one of the biggest struggles.

“Access really varies across Canada and the people who are getting the short end of the stick are definitely people in rural and remote areas,” she said. “To offer a medical abortion is way more accessible for service providers than to set up the services needed for surgical abortion.

“In a rural community you don’t have the same access to a pretty important medical service. And that’s not what our health care system is about. It’s supposed to be universal.”

While Chabot said cost coverage for Mifegymiso is a huge step towards removing multi-tiered access, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights is still advocating to remove the current ultrasound requirement.

“Cost coverage was the first step that we had identified as making the biggest difference,” she said. “[Before] people would have to pay out of pocket – something like $400. We had a pretty major victory with most Health Canada restrictions being taken down, but the mandated ultrasound continues to stand in the way for access in some areas.

“We’re working with a lot of activists and other organizations to continue to chip away at these barriers.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A protest has been planned for March 5, 2020 over Penticton council’s decision to reject an application from BC Housing to keep an emergency winter shelter open over a year longer than originally planned. (Jesse Day - Western News)
‘Bring your tent’: Protest planned in Penticton’s Gyro Park over winter shelter closure

Protesters plan to show council ‘what the result of their decision will look like’

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki responded to BC Housing minster David Eby’s remarks that the city has put themselves at risk of creating a tent city Wednesday, March 3, 2020. (Western News file photo)
Penticton mayor calls out BC Housing minister for ‘irresponsible fear-mongering’

Council recently rejected BC Housing’s request to keep a winter shelter open longer than first planned

Robert Emms spotted these beauties in a waterway in downtown Penticton. (Robert Emms)
Trumpeter swans visit downtown Penticton

The beautiful birds are regulars near the shores of Okanagan Lake on Highway 97

Ecologist and writer Don Gayton wraps up the Penticton Arts Council’s March events. (Submitted)
Penticton Arts Council unveils March’s programs

Making your own comics and short stories highlight March events

After 20 years in the community, Pathways Addiction Recovery Centre has had its funding cut by Interior Health, who says they are bringing addictions services in-house now. (Facebook)
Community outraged at Interior Health’s decision to cut funding to Penticton addiction services centre

People question why Pathways addiction services would be cut during an overdose epidemic

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

John Hordyk said it isn’t fair to just look at COVID-19 deaths as many survivors are experiencing long-term impacts, himself included. (Photo by Rachel Muise)
Not getting better: Revelstoke man diagnosed with post-COVID-19 syndrome

‘I hope the damage isn’t long term, but it could be permanent’

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

The restart of the program means seniors can receive affordable meals delivered five days a week Photo by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post.
Princeton Meals on Wheels one year trial will cost $92k

Program restarts, and volunteer drivers are needed

Most Read