Letter addressed to the Honourable Bob McLeod, Premier of Northwest Territories and the Honourable Glen Abernethy, Minister of Health and Community Services
RE: Universal Cost-Coverage for Medical Abortion
Dear Premier McLeod and Minister Abernethy,
We are writing you today on behalf of a working group of key stakeholders including health care providers, professional organizations, medical students, and community advocates who have joined forces to advocate on behalf of the advancement of reproductive rights throughout the Northwest Territories. We are incredibly pleased to see that your government has recognized the importance of cost coverage for the medical abortion pill, Mifegymiso.
As you deliberate the details for your cost coverage program we appreciate the opportunity to offer the information below which details the best possible standards for cost-coverage. Coverage for Mifegymiso should be universal as has been exemplified by provinces and territories across Canada. It is both necessary and possible for communities like ours to have unrestricted access to medical abortion to ensure that the people of NWT have equal access to their reproductive rights.
It has been shown that restricting access to abortion care does not decrease the number of terminated pregnancies, it only increases the number of unsafe abortions and the burden placed on those who are forced to travel long distances for care. Those most affected by lack of provision are those who need it the most: young, low-income earners in rural communities. They face poorer sexual health outcomes and are most vulnerable to the compounding effects of the emotional, physical, and economic burdens of travel.
While a large number of people in the NWT are covered under the NIHB formulary, 50% are not. While providing coverage to those without insurance will help some; evidence shows that those who are insured still face multiple and confusing barriers, including co-pays, deductibles and the filling out onerous formularies. In many cases individuals are insured under their parents or spouses and the requirement to disclose to a family member will prevent them from accessing their abortion and might compromise the safety guaranteed by confidentiality. People who seek abortions are sometimes young and have fewer resources and understanding about how to engage with bureaucratic processes. As well, as you know, abortion is a time sensitive procedure, the need for which is never predictable. Medical abortion is even more time sensitive than surgical. Having to understand and navigate insurance claims will delay access to an essential medical procedure.
The NWT must join the other provincial governments working to ensure our health care system remains universal by ensuring financial coverage for medical abortion.
Thus, we call upon the Government of Northwest Territories to provide universal cost-coverage of Mifegymiso as a central part of your government’s plan to improve gender equality, and support the right to bodily autonomy, safety, and health. We thereby urge the Department of Health and Social Services to:
- Provide universal cost coverage of Mifegymiso to all persons in the NWT
- Support the NOW program, with both funding and capacity, to investigate options to provide Mifegymiso in communities with on site providers (MD or Midwives)
- Facilitate the addition of Mifegymiso to the Pharmacy List for Registered Midwives in NWT
The professional signatories of this letter include a range of experts who are committed to working with your team in an advisory capacity to help ensure a comprehensive and effective approach to cost coverage rollout across the territory. The wide breadth of knowledge and expertise represented in our group will ensure collaborative, well-rounded, and comprehensive support to developing a provincial approach that will effectively reduce the current barriers in access to abortion services while maintaining high standards of care.
Universal coverage of Mifegymiso is a matter of reducing health inequities, and ensuring fairness and equity, without discrimination on the basis of income or remote location. By removing the financial barrier of Mifegymiso and in working to ensure take up of this important medical practice, your government has a momentous opportunity to fulfill an unmet responsibility to optimizing the health ad support people and families from across the territory.
We thank you for taking on this important work we look forward to your response.
Candice Lys, PhD (Public Health), Co-Founder/Executive Director FOXY
Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
Heather Heinrichs, RM, IBCLC, President Midwives Association of the Northwest Territories
Shireen Mansouri, MD CCFP FCFP, Family physician Director of Northern Options for Women NTHSSA YK region