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

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.

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

Just Posted

The City of Victoria filed a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. March 2 to have it clarify whether, under the Trustee Act, Beacon Hill Park can be used for temporary sheltering. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria asks court to clarify if Beacon Hill Park can be used for sheltering

City of Victoria filed petition to Supreme Court of B.C. March 2

The application proposing to rezone Western Speedway was passed by Langford’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee Feb 8. A petition has since been started by residents of Trudie Terrace, hoping to stop the proposed residential portion of the development plan. (CBRE Victoria)
Petition opposing Western Speedway development proposal gains steam

Save Thetis Heights Neighborhood petition aims to stop extension of Trudie Terrace

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

Boma Brown won the Emerging Leader Award for her work founding the Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour. (Courtesy of Boma Brown)
Victoria SNIWWOC founder up for national women’s award for volunteer efforts

Victoria’s Boma Brown is a semi-finalist in the running for the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

Most Read