No-cost medical abortions ‘a game changer’ in B.C. women’s health care

Mifegymiso used to cost about $300 out-of-pocket

Free, confidential access to medical abortions will make choosing to terminate a pregnancy safer for B.C. women, according to UBC associate Dr. Wendy Norman.

The province announced Tuesday that it would be making abortion drug Mifegymiso available at no cost in B.C., starting on Jan. 15.

The drug costs approximately $300 out-of-pocket.

“This is a huge advance,” said Norman, a principal investigator at the Women’s Health Research Institute at BC Women’s Hospital.

“This is a game changer.”

After the drug was approved, Ottawa looked into whether it should be covered by public health plans.

“In the spring, the [federal] agency that does the Common Drug Review on cost effectiveness recommended that this was cost effective and that the government should cover it.”

Medical abortion, Norman noted, has been available around the world for almost 30 years in more than 60 countries.

Canada only approved Mifegymiso in January 2017 and the first abortion using the drug was performed last Jan. 10.

While other drugs can be used in Canada for medical abortions, Norman said they’re less safe and effective, with only four per cent of women seeking abortions using them each year.

“They have a higher rate of needing surgical intervention if it doesn’t work and having more potential side effects,” said Norman. “By comparison, in northern European countries more than three-quarters of women seeking abortion use medical abortions.”

In B.C., however, the majority of women opt for surgical abortions out of a lack of other options.

“Women who are trying to decide whether to have a medical or surgical abortion should be making that decision based on their health, not on their postal code,” Norman said.

Equalizing access, ensuring privacy

Mifegymiso will be available at pharmacies across the province and can be prescribed by a family doctor or nurse practitioner.

Norman said that allowing women to make choices about their health in the privacy of a doctors office is key to ensuring access for women who want to stay discreet.

Women can avoid “going to a surgical clinic where they might be identified going in or out by protesters or others. Nobody needs to know what you’re talking to your own doctor or nurse about.”

Mifegymiso, which can be used within the first nine weeks of pregnancy, is a safer and easier to arrange option, Norman said.

“Abortion is safer every week earlier in the pregnancy and it’s always safer than carrying a pregnancy to term,” she said.

“If you’re able in your own community to access an early medical abortion, then this is safer than having to wait two to three weeks to make the arrangements to get into a city or to make an appointment at a clinic

Although recovery time is similar for both surgical and medical abortions, Norman said, medical abortions lack the travel time and can be planned at the least disruptive time.

“You can take [the drug] home and decide you want to start the medical abortion on a Friday evening and have your abortion happen over the weekend, which isn’t a choice when you’re trying to book surgery and their only spot might be a Tuesday afternoon,” said Norman.

“You might miss a day [of work] to travel there, a day while you’re there and a day or two afterwords before you can return to your work.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Penticton Vee player of the week, new assistant coach joins team

Penticton’s James Miller named BCHL player of the week, former Surrey coach joins Vees

Update: Penticton man who allegedly exposed genitals makes court appearance

Penticton RCMP said incident occurred at the Kiwanis Park

Peach City Radio offered funding for new project

Speak Out Community Collective to feature live interviews with community groups

Penticton city council candidate questioning vote counters

Kevin Proteau has previously requested the city go back to manual vote counts

Almost 2,000 votes already cast

Penticton voters taking advantage of advance polls

Video: Okanagan Fest of Ale Society doles out $60,000

The society has given out over $60,000 to Penticton and area not-for-profits since 1996

VOTE: Nature in Focus reader’s choice photo contest

The Penticton Western News Reader’s Choice photo contest

Who’s running in Penticton’s election?

Candidates for the Penticton municipal and school board election

Trump: Saudi king ‘firmly denies’ any role in Khashoggi mystery

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is travelling to the Middle East to learn more about the fate of the Saudi national

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at 65

Allen died in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Transport Canada to take new look at rules, research on school bus seatbelts

Canada doesn’t currently require seatbelts on school buses

Sockeye run in Shuswap expected to be close to 2014 numbers

Salute to the Sockeye on Adams River continues until Sunday, Oct. 21 at 4 p.m.

Michelle Mungall’s baby first in B.C. legislature chamber

B.C. energy minister praises support of staff, fellow MLAs

Canucks: Pettersson in concussion protocol, Beagle out with broken forearm

Head coach Travis Green called the hit ‘a dirty play’

Most Read