Formerly available to people at a cost of $300, the drug will now be free.
Alberta is the second province in Canada to provide universal access to the abortion drug Mifegymiso.
Health Minister Sarah Hoffman announced Monday that the pill, which first became available this year at a cost of approximately $300, will now be free.
Mifegymiso was approved by Health Canada in July 2015 and can be used to terminate a pregnancy of up to 49 days.
Friends of Medicare Executive Director Sandra Azocar applauded the decision, calling it a “huge step” for a woman’s ability to decide whether to reproduce.
“It’s important for women and for reproductive health overall,” she said.
Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition spokesperson Kathy Dawson also cheered the move, saying it will help ensure abortion access for all Albertans regardless of income level.
Sandeep Prasad, executive director with Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, said in a statement that Alberta has shown “exemplary leadership” in recognizing the potential of Mifegymiso to “address ongoing barriers and increase health equality.”
In a press release Monday, Hoffman highlighted the significance of the move for women in rural parts of the province.
“Women’s reproductive options should not be determined by their income or where they live. For far too long, women in rural communities have had to travel to major urban centres to receive a surgical abortion,” she said.
Under Health Canada rules, doctors have to complete a training program before prescribing Mifegymiso.
Any pharmacist can then dispense it.
Azocar said that while the announcement is positive for women who may have had to travel to Edmonton or Calgary for a surgical abortion, Friends of Medicare will watch the coverage roll-out closely to ensure equal access becomes a reality.
“It’s always a question in rural communities, if there’s only one physician or only one nurse practitioner – whoever is going to be prescribing this drug has to be on board in terms of recognizing that women have a right to choose and individuals have a right to decide about their reproductive health,” Azocar said.
The drug has been approved in more than 50 countries since 1988 and is included on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines.
New Brunswick was the first Canadian province to provide universal coverage, and officials in Quebec and Ontario have indicated they will follow suit.