Three weeks following a historic multi-sectoral advocacy event including Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Pharmacists Association, and the Canadian Health Coalition, Health Canada has responded to our joint demands, making abortion more accessible in Canada.
Action Canada is pleased to see the most recent revisions of the Health Canada regulations on the abortion pill, Mifegymiso. The announcement comes following the tireless efforts of Action Canada and advocates across the country, who unceasingly called into question the unnecessary road blocks imposed due to abortion exceptionalism and stigma.
“There is decades worth of evidence from use in over 60 countries proving how safe and effective this medication is, yet Mifegymiso is more regulated than controlled substances in Canada,” says Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.
Politics rather than science dictated the Health Canada regulations, shining a light on the stigma that surrounds abortion, despite how common the procedure is and how integral it is to a comprehensive package of reproductive health services.
Mifegymiso matters. It has the potential to significantly improve access to abortion in our country. Many people in Canada, especially those in rural and remote areas, are forced to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands of kilometers, to find a service provider. “Abortion access shouldn’t depend on your postal code or income bracket. It’s the responsibility of all levels of government to address two-tiered access,” says Prasad.
We continue to ask our governments to do all in their power to address barriers to abortion. One restrictive carry-over from the previous version of the Health Canada guidelines is the mandatory requirement of an ultrasound. This requirement can lead to serious delays in administering Mifegymiso, especially in regions where ultrasound services are few and far between, only accessible in hospitals, or have long wait lists. The Society of Obstetrician and Gynecologists of Canada has recommended the use of alternative means when access to an ultrasound is difficult.
“Today proves that advocating for better access to health care matters. Mifegymiso has the potential to address historical gaps in abortion access from coast to coast to coast,” says Prasad. Action Canada will continue to work on this important issue, provincially and federally.
“Among our ongoing efforts toward real access across the country, we look forward to assisting our Federal Health Minister to make good on her promise to end unequal access between provinces/territories in collaboration with her provincial and territorial counterparts,” concludes Prasad.
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NOTES FOR EDITORS
- In July of 2015, after one of its lengthiest drug approval processes on record, Health Canada included unnecessarily strict conditions for the use of the abortion pill. While some restrictions were quickly lifted or eased following public outcry, many of these rules had continued to stand in the way of realizing the drug’s potential for improving access to abortion in Canada.
- The new product monograph’s language makes way for more health care practitioners like Nurse Practitioners and other trained professionals (including midwives) to prescribe Mifegymiso, a change that has been supported by Colleges of Nurses across many provinces as well as the Canadian Nurses Association. The new guidelines also remove any indication to pharmacists on how to dispense the drug (as is the case for most drugs on the market), a decision celebrated by the Canadian Pharmacists Association. They also clearly remove the requirement for training, a rule that had already been relaxed by Health Canada but because of its ambiguous wording, was still creating confusion among health care practitioners about what professional development was required to become a prescriber or a dispenser. Finally, the revised guidelines expand the gestational limits of Mifegymiso from 49 to 63 days. Action Canada has been pushing for all three changes through its Mifegymiso Campaign mifegymiso.com