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Abortion pill not covered

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Women are choosing unnecessary surgical abortions because the province doesn’t cover the abortion pill, the executive director of the Vancouver Island Women’s Clinic says.

Dawn Fowler said the $350 price tag on Mifepristone, also known as the abortion pill, means some women who want to terminate unwanted pregnancies at the clinic opt for surgery because it’s covered by the province. “Women who want to terminate a pregnancy are being forced to put price in as a factor,” Fowler said.

Canada approved Mifepristone, which has been available in other countries for 25 years, in 2015.

It is available as part of a two-drug package in B.C. under the name Mifegymiso. One tablet of Mifepristone blocks progesterone production in the uterus, then four tablets of misoprostol induce contractions and cause a miscarriage.

The drug can be taken in the first 70 days of pregnancy.

Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia offer universal coverage of the pill.

In British Columbia, the pill is covered for First Nations, people on income assistance and through hospital pharmacies.

Other women who get a prescription from their family doctors would have to pay for it at the pharmacy, if they don’t have third-party coverage. That makes women who work part time or for minimum wage vulnerable, Fowler said.

She said the pill offers benefits to women: They can take it at their convenience, at their homes, with their comforts and supports in place.

It also makes abortions accessible to women in rural and remote areas, where there might not be a doctor trained in surgery.

Surgery increases costs to the health-care system, she said.

“It’s actually cost-beneficial for the government to provide coverage, because it requires less overhead than surgery and it’s freeing up hospital or surgical beds,” Fowler said.

“I talk a lot with a clinic in Calgary, where they have full funding. Their numbers have changed dramatically.”

About half of the terminations at the Calgary clinic are carried out using medication, she said. Before Mifepristone was made universally available, they were all done using surgery.

“In a very short time, there’s been a dramatic change,” she said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is reviewing the drug.

“I think it’s an important part of a women’s health strategy, and we’re on the case. We’ve heard the concerns expressed by people in the community and we’re working  on it.”

Dix said B.C. is considering a model like those of other provinces, where there are no upfront costs or deductibles.

© Copyright Times Colonist


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