Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Pauline Frost

Government will finance abortion pill

Yukoners hoping to access abortion will now have an alternative that will be fully covered by the territorial government,

By Palak Mangat on November 1, 2018

Yukoners hoping to access abortion will now have an alternative that will be fully covered by the territorial government, thanks to a partnership with the Yukon Hospital Corp.

It comes after the territory began rolling out universal coverage of Mifegymiso on Wednesday. It’s a measure the government hopes will reduce the barrier to accessing abortion medication.

Those interested will have four main hubs to choose from, with full-time resident physicians prescribing the medicine out of Haines Junction, Dawson City, Watson Lake and Whitehorse.

That means somebody living in other communities where services are not being offered will need to travel to the closest hub.

“The decision to provide coverage is about providing better service for Yukon women,” Health and Social Services (HSS) Minister Pauline Frost said Wednesday, noting that it’s also expected to lead to a decrease in overall health costs.

“By providing coverage of the medication, we are allowing Yukoners to make the choice that is right for them, regardless of the cost.”

According to the department, the costs of that are as follows: the pill will be substantially less than a surgical procedure, setting a woman back by about $300.

The alternative can range between $1,200 and $1,400, which includes the doctor’s fee, anesthesiology and operating room costs.

Coverage of the medication is also a long time coming and will help put the territory on par with other jurisdictions across the country, the minister told the legislature Wednesday.

With the territory seeing upwards of 110 abortions per year, Frost explained that “during my time here, it’s come to my attention that it’s a priority for Yukoners.

“Right now, the only way of abortion is very intrusive,” she later added.

The territory is the eighth jurisdiction in the country to offer coverage for the drug so the announcement was welcome news, said Sandeep Prasad.

Serving as the executive director with Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights, Prasad explained this morning that offering coverage does not necessarily mean more women will begin looking at terminating pregnancies.

In fact, through his work, he estimates the split between those seeking medical and surgical options in areas where both have been offered for a longer period of time sits at about 50-50.

An additional barrier to accessing the drug was who Health Canada permitted to prescribe it.

The drug was approved by Health Canada in mid-2015 and became available to the public in 2017.

Initially approved to be prescribed up to seven weeks (49 days) into a pregnancy, Ottawa approved it an additional two weeks in late 2017.

Health Canada also permits patients to take the medication either at home or a health facility, as directed by a professional.

As per federal regulations, those prescribing are required to have “appropriate knowledge” about it beforehand.

Health Canada notes that while education programs are available, professionals are no longer required to complete it before they can prescribe the drug.

An HSS spokesperson, meanwhile, confirmed this morning that requirements and procedures for prescribing the drug in the territory are set by Health Canada.

“The training that is required (now) is basically self-studying,” Prasad said, noting that doctors are encouraged to read up and exercise sound judgment when prescribing the combination drug.

“That doesn’t require formal training or courses as Health Canada once did require, but it can be done.”

Prasad noted his group has a 24-hour access line that receives calls from all over the country from those seeking abortion but don’t know where to go to access it.

He explained that anecdotally, some callers say their doctors can’t prescribe it because they haven’t done the mandatory training (which Health Canada had since revised).

“That’s a big piece of misinformation that’s out there,” he said, which his organization and others with the help of governments are trying to curb.

Prasad’s statements were echoed in part by Stephanie Buchanan, a general practitioner in the territory who is involved in women’s health care.

She agreed that abortion rates may not likely be impacted as a result of an announcement like Wednesday’s, but it may lead to some of those who opted for surgical procedures to switch over to the medical option.

Mifegymiso has been offered in the territory for at least two to three months now, she told the Star. “It’s completely acceptable that anyone prescribe it the same as a birth control pill or morning after pill.”

While there is not that mandatory requirement, there is a “robust group of providers in Whitehorse and the territory who are seeking out training,” she added.

“We tried to make access to training available, but it is optional.”

As for the possibility that this could result in an increase in those seeking to terminate pregnancies, Buchanan remained doubtful.

“In most jurisdictions that have good access to sexual health care, you generally see a variation of anywhere from 20 to 70 per cent of surgical abortions turning over and becoming medical abortions,” she said. “It does not increase rates.”

She confirmed that like most medications, there is no formal requirement for prescribers to take courses or training – in part because of the safety and popularity of the drug itself. That all helps in improving access, she added.

Back in the legislature Wednesday, Frost echoed that ultimately, it boils down to offering a reasonable option with reduced barriers.

“That’s why it’s so important – it gives women an opportunity and families an opportunity to make a choice.”

As for any safety concerns with the drug: Frost pointed out that it has been widely tested and used across the world for years.

Like most drugs, any necessary precautions or warnings are included with the product itself.

Patients are required to have a follow-up appointment with their doctor within two weeks of taking the medication, to confirm that it was indeed effective in terminating the pregnancy and verify there has been no infection.

Patients are to visit their family doctor, a walk-in clinic or the Yukon Sexual Health Clinic. Usage of the drug will require a follow-up with the prescribing doctor, being made available in the four hubs mentioned earlier.

A prescription for the medication will allow patients to choose to either fill it at a pharmacy for retail cost or through a partnership with the hospital, free of charge.

Mifegymiso is a combination of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. Taken together, they can be used to end a pregnancy after up to nine weeks (or 63 days) of carriage.

As a release issued Wednesday afternoon notes, the medication itself has been available in nearly 60 countries and used for about three decades.

Comments (13)

Up 4 Down 0

No accident at all on Nov 7, 2018 at 12:34 pm

Hey Al! i would love to see free birth control. it's not cheap!

Unfortunately, you still have to be a responsible person and take the pill also. Then they'd probably blame the government for getting pregnant since they can't be responsible enough to take a pill regularly.

There are free condoms all over the place too, but people still "forget" to put one of those on.
Most "accidents" are not accidents at all--they're irresponsibility.

Up 3 Down 3

Max Mack on Nov 7, 2018 at 11:52 am

Is there anything more progressive than popping a pill so you don't pop a baby?

Up 7 Down 0

Guncache on Nov 7, 2018 at 9:36 am

Not saying this is right or wrong and I'm going to change the subject. Minister Frost, how about doing something worthwhile for seniors. How about supplying the vaccine Shingrix to seniors. Shingles is a debilitating disease. Ontario supplies it to seniors. The rest of Canada has had the vaccine for almost a year. You don't need to form committees to study this, just yes or no.

Up 3 Down 1

Doug Ryder on Nov 6, 2018 at 6:30 pm

@ Yukon Girl - Thank you for the clarification. I now properly understand and appreciate your perspective.

Up 20 Down 3

Al on Nov 6, 2018 at 11:47 am

I wonder why not free birth control for people? This would help prevent the need for abortions. I am pro choice but I know some people who've had several abortions. When it is being used as birth control, this is when it doesn't sit right with me.

Up 10 Down 3

Yukon Girl on Nov 5, 2018 at 8:26 pm

@Doug-
You’re right, that was poorly worded.
What I meant was that I wanted the abortion pill to replace surgical abortion as often as possible as mifepristone is a safer and cheaper option.

Up 13 Down 16

joe and Jane on Nov 5, 2018 at 3:53 pm

Innocent, defenceless life taken away by someone else. Albeit a pointless argument in this society, if it wasn't considered a separate life then none of our sons and daughters would be separate lives.

Up 5 Down 13

Doug Ryder on Nov 4, 2018 at 7:09 pm

@ Roy et al. - Why do you or anyone else believe they can publicly spout off ill-informed, erroneous and socially irresponsible information in the guise of “opinion”.

Why do people like you believe you have the right to contribute to the dumbing down of society. Comments sections are intended to be places of debate.
However, because of people like yourself who have little ability to engage in real debate because all they have is their opinion the internet and comments sections have become a cesspool for toxic disputation.

Then you have people who by virtue of their ignorance say things that they do not intend because there is no accountability to one’s opinion.
Great call Roy - Is Roy short for destroy?
Robert Montenegro - Sept 14, 2015

“Third, most public comment boards promote a state of discourse antithetical to rational thought and debate. By offering a forum for ignorance and failing to curate it you tacitly endorse the spread of philistinism.”
Retrieved from:
https://www.google.ca/amp/s/bigthink.com/comments-sections-are-toxic-2604494459.amp.html

Up 15 Down 7

Roy on Nov 3, 2018 at 9:25 pm

@ Doug
I hate how people think the comments section is a chatroom, and expect people to enter into a lengthy conversation with someone else about this or that opinion, interspersed with other people's comments, and over course of hours or days. Why don't you save it for Facebook, just hook up for a coffee date, or maybe just state your own opinion on the subject and move on.

Up 8 Down 12

Doug Ryder on Nov 3, 2018 at 5:11 pm

@ At Home - Foetuses are not defined as persons and as such are not legally considered humans or babies. No person would advocate the taking of human life... Unless of course you are elderly and cannot afford your medical bills... You might then be given the assisted suicide talk...

Up 11 Down 6

Doug Ryder on Nov 2, 2018 at 7:36 pm

@ Yukon Girl - The end of your post seems a little odd. Can you explain what you mean by this please:

Now let's see if we can use it more than Manitobia who only had 29 prescriptions distributed as of June 2018...
It sounds like you are advocating for unwanted pregnancies so people can use the pill...

Up 13 Down 23

At home in the Yukon on Nov 2, 2018 at 2:47 pm

And we slide down the slippery slope. Yukonners get all hot and bothered if something bad happens to a dog, but a human baby is expendable.

Up 23 Down 12

Yukon Girl on Nov 1, 2018 at 6:17 pm

Clarifcation - women do not pay for a surgical abortion. The government saves by covering Mifepristone, because it does not have to pay the cost associated with a surgical abortion.
Also, who cares if access to mifepristone increases abortion rates in the Yukon. It's none of our buisness who or how many access this essential service for women.
This is a safer medication than many medications and it is old news. I think it's great that the Yukon has followed most other places in Canada to cover it. Now let's see if we can use it more than Manitobia who only had 29 prescriptions distributed as of June 2018 (Globe and Mail, Oct 12)

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.