Nova Scotia announces big changes in access to abortions

Doctor's referrals will no longer be needed for surgical appointments, and the Mifegymiso pill will be free with prescription.

Nova Scotia announces big changes in access to abortions
Starting November 1 the abortion pill Mifegymiso will be available to Nova Scotian pharmacies with a valid health card and prescription.

Doctor referrals will no longer be needed for surgical abortions and pharmacies across Nova Scotia will begin offering free access to the abortion pill, Mifegymiso.

The announcement was made Friday by Kelly Regan, minister for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

“We're supporting more choice for women when it comes to their reproductive health,” Regan writes in a press release. “This will ensure all Nova Scotia women have access to this option.”

Starting in November, women with a valid health card and prescription will receive Mifegymiso—taken to terminate a pregnancy of up to 49 days—from pharmacies at no cost.

Commonly known as the “abortion pill,” Mifegymiso is already funded by health departments in other provinces, but was previously only available in Nova Scotia under some private drug plans.

The pill costs roughly $350 per patient. The province estimates it will spend between $175,000 to $200,000 a year to pay for the coverage.

In addition to the improved access to Mifegymiso, the government has also removed the requirement of a physician’s referral for surgical abortions. A new phone line will instead be set up for patients to book their own appointments.

As reported by Brett Bundale in the Canadian Press this summer, Nova Scotia was the only province in Canada where women needed a doctor’s referral before booking an abortion.

Combined with the lack of coverage for Migegymiso and impractically long wait times for surgery, it made Nova Scotia one of the worst places in the country to get an abortion.

“The situation for abortion access is extremely grim," Darrah Teitel, spokesperson for Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights told the Canadian Press.

Friday’s announcement, at least, offers some hope the province is listening to the concerns of health care advocates.

“I'm pleased to see that government is acting to offer women in Nova Scotia more choice,” Michelle Kelly, spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women writes in the department’s press release.

“Providing universal coverage for Mifegymiso and improving access to abortion services are positive steps forward for Nova Scotia women.”

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